Our Services – Landscape Architecture

Written by: Rachel Washington and Eric Lanehart, PLA, ISA

Landscape Architecture is a facet of the services our firm provides. Our design experts are passionate about connecting people to their environment, creating value, and enriching the overall outdoor experience. Whether it’s large-scale master plans, public facilities/parks, or a commercial outparcel, our team provides innovative solutions for your projects.

What is Landscape Architecture?

MDG’s Landscape Architecture department is responsible for planning, designing, permitting, and assisting with landscaping for both the public and private markets. This includes the development of plans depicting the placement of plants, trees, shrubs, buildings, roads, plazas, playgrounds, pools, patios, and multi-use paths with a strong emphasis on the sustainability, functionality, and aesthetics of the environment.

Typical design services include landscape design, tree mitigation (or the removal of a tree by planting replacement trees on site), and irrigation design. Our landscape plans can include the landscape design, planting schedule, planting construction details and specifications, and tree “gator bags” or irrigation design. These plans also depict the location of buildings, fields, and ponds, as well as any required landscape buffer. MDG is prequalified by FDOT for services in connection with the design and construction of landscaping projects.

why is Landscape Architecture important?

Landscape Architecture is often seen as comparable to gardening, but it’s so much more than that! While it does involve the aesthetic placement of plants, it creates sustainable and efficient outdoor spaces that are tailored to the project area. This means that the specific environmental issues or constraints are addressed after careful analysis. Plants are chosen based on the “Right Plant Right Place” approach. We use aesthetically pleasing plants which are put in a space they prefer to grow as it’s not wise to force a plant into an area in which it won’t survive.

An example of this can be seen in our Claude Weeks Garden Courtyard at Flagler Health+: grass is planted between pavers, plants are planted in beds along the walls, and the installation of a 12’x15’ “green wall,” which is the focal point of the courtyard, completes this green space that is utilized by both staff and guests of the hospital enjoy fresh air in a peaceful and meditative outdoor environment. The additions to the courtyard were created to compliment the existing landscape that was retained, which helped to elevate the aesthetics while saving the client money.


Flagler Hospital Courtyard

The Key Elements of Landscape Architecture

A few essential elements of Landscape Architecture are: 

  1. Softscape
    Any of the living horticulture elements within the landscape plans are considered softscape: trees, flowers, grass, shrubs, etc. Duties that are required to maintain these elements are also included. Planning is part of this element to avoid seasonal issues, work within permitting restraints, and remain within budget. A well-designed set of landscape plans will balance the softscape and hardscape.
  1. Hardscape. 
    Unlike softscape, the hardscape design is any non-living elements in the landscape designs. This typically includes elements like roads, walkways, signs, pavers, pools, raised planter beds, benches, fences, courts/fields, etc. These are designed early in the process and often set the foundation of the plans. Without identifying the locations of the hardscape elements, it’s difficult to effectively design the softscape. Eventually these elements are married with adjoining Softscapes for final construction plans.
  1. Tree Mitigation. 
    Part of implementing a new landscape design occasionally requires demolishing the current landscaping. This can include the removal of healthy trees. Nearly all municipalities require some form of tree mitigation that ensures that the proportionate number of trees are planted on site as a replacement to those removed and is based on the species and size of the tree(s) removed. The right tree mitigation strategy leads to successful project construction and can save the client money by complying with ordinances and ensuring that protected trees are not removed.

Why Do We Recommend this Service?

Our projects are brought to life through our landscape architecture services! It adds color and design, encourages healthy living, and enhances the natural environment. It connects people to their environment and provides a unique and stimulating experience.

More practically, landscape architecture provides essential infrastructure to a project. It can help prevent soil erosion, clean storm water, encourage groundwater recharge, and add shade. As communities continue to expand and reduce the existing natural landscape, landscape architecture helps to bring sustainable landscaping options to projects that are beneficial for the future.

What Should You Know?

Early Budgeting for Softscapes and Hardscapes.  To get a precise estimate for landscape and hardscape it is best to use the final design plan.  However, by then, many of work hours have been expended. A redesign for value engineering may not be practical if the items selected turn out to be too expensive. One or two simple concepts showing the conceptual locations for trees, shrubs, ground covers, and lawn, plus any areas with pavers, a monument sign or pool can be used to quickly budget in these items. Once the concept and budget are conceptually set, you can move to the final design knowing not to exceed parts of the design. During the design process, trees get moved, patios may change shape, and the budget can be amended as needed. 

Lawns typically make up no more than 50% of the site. Hardscapes, patios, pools, parking, and buildings will take up most of the site. The rest of the site will be trees, shrubs, and ground cover. With up-front budgeting, there are no surprises and it allows the design process to stay on track.

Second Opinion on Surveyed Trees.  Two things commonly missed in a protected tree survey are the absence of noting when a tree is diseased and/or listing the wrong species of tree. Mitigation fees for existing trees can be as high as $100,000 for a small commercial site in Jacksonville. In St. Johns County one specimen of tree can render part of the property unusable. MDG’s Director of Landscape Architecture is an Arborist and is qualified to go examine trees in question and determine if they are a protected species or declining due to disease or environmental conditions. If so, these trees can be noted on our permit plans and removed from the protected tree survey. This can often save clients a lot of time and money!

A Real Life Example

Photo courtesy of JTA, https://www.jtafla.com
Photo courtesy of JTA, https://www.jtafla.com

MDG provided landscape architecture services for the St. Johns River Ferry Improvements project for Mayport Village Terminal and Ft. George Island Terminal in Duval County. The scope of work included landscape and irrigation design plans for both terminal sites.

As part of the phase 4 improvements, JTA was working to increase user safety and had specific guidelines on plant selection for both terminal sites. The landscaping had to be drought-tolerant and be able to withstand the coastal environments to minimize the need for supplemental irrigation.

The project location is a very busy queuing area for cars along with light pedestrian and cyclist traffic. With the new landscaping, users can see important aspects of the site as the landscape design provides low hedges and ground cover, and palms and trees with canopies above 8’ in height. In other words, the typical user is not having to try and see through dense vegetation in order to navigate the site.

MDG’s tree mitigation plan for the sites had the removed trees transplanted on site in a 1:1 ratio to minimize costs. Water-saving methods were priority for the irrigation design and was accomplished with drought-tolerant plants and efficient arrangement. This will help to save JTA costs in both maintaining the plants with minimal fertilizing and watering, and from having to replace them due to low rain or watering.


Meet the Director of Landscape Architecture

Eric Lanehart, PLA, ISA

Eric has 20 years of experience in the landscape architecture and land planning industry. He has worked mainly in North Florida, but has completed projects in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. He has managed multiple site planning, landscape, hardscape, and irrigation design projects for a diverse client base.

Eric’s project types include amenity centers, parks and recreation facilities, commercial, industrial, mixed-use, multi-family, and single-family developments. He has always worked closely with engineers, planners, consultants, and client staff to gain approval prior to producing detailed cost analysis, quality renderings, and construction documents.

As an Arborist, he has performed numerous site analysis to determine tree species, tree health and structural stability along with helping clients reduce tree mitigation costs.

Eric is passionate about enhancing the beauty of projects through creative and sustainable landscape design.


In need of landscape architecture services for your project? We would be happy to partner with you!


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