A Garden You Can Bank On

– Posted in: Garden Design, Garden Plants


Tom Marantz, Bank of Springfield’s Chairman & CEO, and Adam Woodruff

Tom Marantz, Bank of Springfield’s Chairman & CEO, and Adam Woodruff

Recently, we noticed comments from a new visitor to GGW, Adam Woodruff of Adam Woodruff Landscapes, LLC, in Clayton, Missouri. We visited his blog and were impressed by his design work, so we invited him to join us as a guest contributor to share his experience with gardening on a grand scale.

All too often, commercial landscapes consist of uninspired swaths of turf and shrub masses with pockets of color to accent corporate signage and key entry points. Weed barriers and rock are favored over blooming groundcovers; diversity is forfeited for ease of maintenance. However, a well-designed garden meant to enhance the site and architecture of a building can do much more for a business than may be obvious.

A garden’s visual impact on the streetscape, for instance, is significant. Lush, seasonal flower borders are an unexpected sight in commercial landscapes, and their color, texture and movement draw the attention of passers-by. The garden effectively acts as an advertising banner, helping to distinguish a business from its competitors. Establishing a garden also improves the aesthetics of a neighborhood, representing an investment on the part of a business to the community it serves.

In 2004, Bank of Springfield (BOS) Chairman and CEO Tom Marantz had a visionary idea – to envelop his bank’s building with lush gardens – and I was commissioned to translate Marantz’s vision into reality. At the time, BOS was doubling the size of its flagship facility at 3400 West Wabash Avenue in Springfield, Illinois. The 3-acre site was in essence a blank canvas: just turf and a few ash trees. The chief consideration of the design process was to boldly impact the streetscape. To accomplish that goal, I designed naturalistic, yet vibrant, flower borders scaled to the site.

Before (2004)

Before (2004)

After (2008)

After (2008)

The gardens cover 22,000 square feet and include a massive perennial and annual bed running the length of the bank’s façade. Several auxiliary flower beds dot the property, echoing color and texture rhythms found in the main bed. Annuals, which represent 40% of the developed bed space, are essential to the success of the gardens, as they ensure consistent bloom. They are woven throughout the plantings to create a tapestry of color and visual interest. I redesign the annual plantings each year to allow for variety and changes in the color palette. Shrubs, roses, grasses, and perennials provide the backbone of the gardens, providing necessary structure through all seasons.


BOS enjoys considerable attention for its community investment. The gardens have been recognized locally and regionally in design competitions. The property sits on one of Springfield’s most highly traveled thoroughfares, and according to Springfield’s Mayor Timothy J. Davlin, “the gardens are truly the talk of the town and demonstrate what a dramatic impact well-designed landscaping can have on a property.”

In his next post, Adam is going to share more details about the plants that have been star performers in the BOS landscape. For more information on Adam and his design work, visit www.adamwoodruff.com.

Adam Woodruff

Adam Woodruff

Adam Woodruff has practiced garden design since 1995. He trained as a Botanist at Eastern Illinois University. Woodruff attributes his unique design aesthetic, naturalism with a twist, to early college exposures to a diverse range of plants and environments (collecting trips in local prairies, field excursions to bogs in Canada and treks through forests of the Northeast). He also maintained the campus greenhouse, where he fell in love with tropicals. In recent years, influences on his designs include travels abroad to Europe, Asia and the Yucatan peninsula as well as observation of the work of great plantsmen such as Piet Oudolf and Roy Diblik. Woodruff’s designs often combine grasses, prairie natives and perennials with lush tropical foliage and seasonal blooms. This harmonious blending of plant material that is not conventionally grouped together is the ‘twist’ that makes his style unique.
Adam Woodruff

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12 comments… add one

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Colleen Vanderlinden December 12, 2008, 6:47 am

I love those before and after shots. What a difference! I wish more businesses were as proactive about this as BOS. It is true that a lush, colorful garden acts as an “advertisement” of its own. In one of our nearby suburbs, the downtown consists of several small shops, cafes, and salons. The owners have paved over any grass and beds for “ease of maintenance.” However, there is this one salon that has broken up a good deal of the concrete in front, and has planted the area instead with perennials and roses. It’s a small garden, but it makes a huge impact—I notice it every time I drive by.

Looking forward to the next post!

Colleen- Thanks for your comments. Springfield’s Mayor, Tim Davlin is dedicated to beautification through his ‘Springfield Green’ Initiative; http://www.springfield.il.us/green/whoweare.html. Annually there is a street-side beautification competition known as Springfield In Bloom, an Adopt-a-Street Program for litter collection as well as a tree planting campaign. His proactive ‘green’ leadership has made a huge difference in the community. I have noticed the past couple of growing seasons other local businesses adopting a less traditional style with regard to their landscape in favor of more blooms and color. Nothing is on as grand a scale as BOS but I agree with you even a small, well designed and maintained garden can have a dramatic impact on the streetscape.

Frances December 12, 2008, 6:51 am

This is a great example of the power of gardens. Well done, it looks beautiful. That kind of thing would pull me into a business over the ones with plain lawn and foundation shrubbery. Nice to see a new GGW contributor too!

Thanks, Frances!

Sylvia December 12, 2008, 7:32 am

What a interesting new contribution to a great blog. Adam, these pictures leave me wanting to know more and I am looking forward to your next post. Thank you.

Best wishes Sylvia (England)

Sylvia, thanks for your interest. I am hoping to pull together a more detailed post of the plants used on site for next week.

Lisa at Greenbow December 12, 2008, 8:20 am

Wow Adam. You obviously deserved the awards and recognition. The before and after shots are dramatic. Springfield is lucky to have you working in the midst of asphalt and concrete. I can’t wait to see/read more.

Thank you! The garden continues to evolve and hopefully improve each season. The site has many challenges: exposure, wind, intense heat in the summer months, overhead irrigation, etc. I struggle to keep the garden looking ‘camera ready’ all season long.

VP December 12, 2008, 3:34 pm

Bland public planting’s one of my pet hates ! It’s great to see a designer who dares to be different in a public space.

Thanks VP. As a designer, it is great having a client like BOS. They give little direction if any regarding the planting scheme. I am working on my 5th redesign of the garden for the 2009 season. I am challenged each year to create more complex and visually interesting displays.

Cameron(Defining Your Home Garden) December 12, 2008, 9:46 pm

Fantastic! Great to see “grass” turned into a beautiful, flowering garden — for all the right reasons!

Kudos to the bank and kudos to the landscaper.


Thanks, Cameron!

Anna/Flowergardengirl December 12, 2008, 11:22 pm

I so much appreciate a thoughtful landscaper and love the beauty they bring to gardeners and non-gardeners. Who wouldn’t enjoy this? It is like looking at a painting.

Anna, thank you for your kind words.

Phillip December 12, 2008, 11:59 pm

Wouldn’t it be great if all businesses did this? Fantastic!

I agree, Phillip. Even smaller scale floral displays can impact the streetscape. Thanks for your comments.

Blackswampgirl Kim December 13, 2008, 12:24 am

WOW. In the “before” shot, I would have guessed that the building was some kind of industrial park outpost… maybe a small printing office or something. In the “after” shot, I really want to know what’s going on in the building… after I take the time to look through the beautiful gardens, of course. 🙂 Nice job, Adam.

Kim, thanks for your comments. We worked with the existing Ash trees for the first two seasons. Their removal was necessary, allowing the garden to flourish. Obviously the building became more visible as well.

Lori December 14, 2008, 9:36 pm

Wow, what a great difference! And I like how the plantings are neat and regimented enough to be corporation-appropriate, but still bursting with fun plants and more natural-looking plant combinations. It’s so calming to look at, and it’s gotta be good for the bank, too. Planting a garden like that out front is a great way to advertise that the people who run the bank care about the well-being of their community, and way more effective and sincere than taking out an ad in the paper.

Thanks for your comments and observations, Lori. The bank is very active in the community. The garden is just one example of how they give back to their customers and the community at large. https://www.bankwithbos.com/community_commitment.php.

Kyle R January 7, 2009, 3:26 pm

awesome! Beautiful. Congratulations darling! i will be looking for your articles.


Kyle. Thanks for stopping by. Happy New Year to you!


rose January 14, 2009, 9:33 pm

Wonderful, Adam, to see your work. Great artistry and heart have gone into this creation. Congratulations to both you and the head of the bank.

Rose. Thanks for your comments and observations. I appreciate the guidance you given these past few years! My business and life are better as a result.


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