Designs on the Future

Mumford Hall to get new landscaping designed by CAFNR students

The creative work of student landscape designers soon will refresh the outdoor surroundings of Mumford Hall on the University of Missouri’s historic White Campus. The building notably displays a lot of character and history, but, in comparison, its exterior environment is looking tired.

So the six students in Instructor Tim Moloney’s Advanced Landscape Design course welcomed the challenge of gaining real-world experience through a Mumford Hall landscaping update. Creating a new look for the 93-year-old building was the midterm work for their Capstone Course in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

Chief designer of the chosen landscape plan is Liz Leingang of St. Louis, a senior with a double major in civil engineering and plant sciences, who loves working outside. Seeing her design on campus became an unexpected and inspiring opportunity for Leingang, who is on track to graduate in December.

Liz Leingang looks over plans at her summer internship with the Missouri Department of Transportation.Liz Leingang looks over plans at her summer internship with the Missouri Department of Transportation.

“I’m very excited to leave my mark on Mizzou. The site was surprisingly difficult. It was very important to make a landscape that would require as little maintenance as possible,” she says.

An ad hoc selection committee of Mumford Hall faculty and staff, led by Joseph Parcell, department chair and professor of agricultural and applied economics, opted to incorporate pieces of three designs in the updating and awarded Mizzou Store gift cards to the winning students.

Leingang’s plan best addressed the year-round aesthetic and had a package for the whole building, Moloney says.

Fifty percent of the concept is the work of Leingang, and 25 percent each includes designs by seniors Elizabeth Wernert of St. Louis and Raschély Flint of Camdenton, Mo. Wernert is majoring in urban forestry and Flint in plant sciences.

The students incorporated a lot of wood-stemmed, rugged plants that need low maintenance and will be attractive year round, especially during the school-term months from fall through May. They produced results that Moloney says will create a “wonderful, colorful site.”

Mumford Hall, which faces University Avenue and Hitt Street, houses faculty and staff of CAFNR’s department of agricultural and applied economics.

Students find the right face

Designing a piece of the campus landscape can be a thorny task. Because the campus is a designated botanic garden, there are many requirements and rules for a designer to follow.

Moloney’s advanced design students met with Joan Smith of MU Campus Facilities to learn the parameters.

The face, or main entrance, of Mumford Hall fronts on University Avenue and must present an appearance that serves as an attractive sales tool to potential students looking at the campus. Also, the area is a public site, so the designers had to consider potential allergy problems and liability issues (no plants with thorns, please). And they had to stay in budget at $10,000 to $15,000.

While Leingang developed her plan, she kept symmetry in the landscape to match the architecture of the building. At the same time, she wanted to balance the landscape with the bed lines.

“Our class focuses on using the six main elements of design – unity, rhythm of line, balance, simplicity, proportion and focal point – so as I was creating the design, I tried to keep all of those elements in mind,” she says.

The designers had to consider traffic flow to keep people on sidewalks. Leingang extended plantings along the sidewalks to discourage pedestrians from walking across the landscape, and she found ways to adhere to the requirement of minimum maintenance.

The designers had to deal with a large building and trees that are at or beyond maturity. They used some existing trees and planned for the eventual demise of others.

The designing students had to handle extremes of sun and shade conditions. The main entrance of Mumford Hall sits in a shady north location, which presents the challenge of finding aesthetically pleasing, shade-tolerant plants, while on the Hitt Street side, plants have to survive a hot afternoon sun.

Leingang looked for bloom color, time of bloom, berries and interesting stems to add design interest. She used mostly woody-stemmed plants that will offer summer and winter color. Some of the plantings she chose are Boxwood Green Mountain, Bluebeard Dark Knight, winter-blooming Vernal Witch Hazel, summer-blooming Hydrangea Annabelle, Winterberry Red Sprite (loaded with red berries in winter), Juniper Grey Owl and Japanese Black Pine, many of which are Missouri natives.

Mizzou’s Landscape Services will implement the design and continue maintenance.

Liz Leingang's Mumford Hall landscape plans.Liz Leingang’s Mumford Hall landscape plans.

Curb appeal is essential

Moloney is delighted to see his students gain design experience with a “commercial-grade planting plan” for a public space such as Mumford Hall. Not only did the students create designs, they successfully sold their ideas to a committee.

“Designers have to be talented with their planning and be able to communicate well, explaining their concepts in a way people can relate to them,” Moloney says.

For a career, Leingang hopes to work with a design-build engineering company to incorporate landscaping into building plans, propose erosion-control solutions and build city gardens, trails and parks. She recently took another important step toward that future when the Missouri Department of Transportation awarded her a summer internship in design, with the responsibility of producing preliminary roadway plans.

“With her dual major, she will be well-equipped for a career,” Moloney says.

CAFNR landscape-design students also gain experience by offering their custom design services to public clients through Tiger Design, a student-staffed landscape design studio

Moloney, too, works with the public, mostly in the summer, as a consultant with Rost Landscaping in Columbia, where he designed landscape plans for 18 years before joining the CAFNR faculty.

Make your landscape sing!

Instructor and landscape designer Tim Moloney offers advice to homeowners for easily maintained landscaping:

  • Consider the overall concept.
  • Use hardy, native plants.
  • Pay attention to groupings and how plants complement each other. Sometimes it’s better to hear the choir; not all plants are soloists.
  • Remember that beauty comes from all types of landscape plants. Even some ordinary plants offer interest in combination with other plants.
  • Check bloom time and what your plants will look like January to January. Plants have sleeping periods.