Native landscape inspires sustainable solutions

Meet the landscape architect in charge of keeping Lake Nona beautiful

September 09, 2020

It’s no secret we have a passion for sustainability in Lake Nona. We’re designed with the environment in mind from utilizing sustainable solutions for buildings to preserving 40 percent of our land for green space. 

Tasked with enhancing our native landscape is Matt McDermott, the landscape architect responsible for keeping Lake Nona beautiful. As landscape manager, Matt oversees the design and installation of landscaping across Lake Nona including residential and commercial developments.

In this Q&A, Matt shares how he prioritizes sustainability in Lake Nona’s landscape and some insights on what we might see next.

Native landscape inspires sustainable solutions 1

How did you get into landscape architecture?

As a landscape architect, I help come up with our design for Lake Nona and oversee the implementation process from supervising during design to managing the installation.

I love what I do because I get to be creative. In Lake Nona, I work with a team that has a creative vision for what’s going to look good for the long term because we’re going to be here long term.

I originally wanted to go to school for architecture, but at the end of my first year I found that I had more clear interest in landscape architecture. I liked the ability to work with what nature already does. Landscape architecture really fascinated me because of its influence on the design and feel of a space.

How do you prioritize sustainability in Lake Nona’s landscaping?

Using a lot of native materials is important in our design because we know that’s what’s going to do well long term. Our native colors are very green, gray, and silver, so we like to add more color with tropicals.

For sustainability, it’s also important how we use our water. We’re always looking at things that don’t need a lot of water after they’ve been planted. For example, we planted wildflower fields along Tavistock Lakes and Lake Nona boulevards. There’s no irrigation there, so there’s less need for mowing and the flowers provide color and interest along the way.

TLB wild flowers

What sustainability efforts are you working on in Lake Nona and why is it important to prioritize the environment?  

One of the coolest sustainability initiatives we’re working on is experimenting with autonomous mowers. They offer zero emissions and zero noise, so our residents hear a lot less yard maintenance.

A big portion of my job is making the most of our land and one of the ways we do that is by harvesting trees for relocation. We have moved just shy of 250 mature trees that would have otherwise been recycled. More than the aesthetics of an older tree, there’s health in mind too. Mature trees produce a lot of oxygen and having them in our new neighborhoods helps the overall quality of life in Lake Nona by providing more oxygen, cleaner air, and natural shade.  

We’re also harvesting saw palmettos from our Sunbridge project to reuse them for future development.

How does Florida’s unique climate help you plan our landscaping?

When I’m planning a design, I look at the existing conditions to see what’s already there so we can figure out how to make anything we add look like it was there all along.

I’m from Indiana so it’s great to have projects to work on all year round here – there’s always something growing or flowering! One of our design concepts is to always have trees in bloom. This year, I planted 100 flowering trees in 12 different varieties around Lake Nona to see what would do well so we can expand our use of them.

You can see some of these newer trees along Lake Nona Boulevard, on Nemours Parkway, and at the corner of Tavistock Lakes Boulevard and Narcoossee Road.

What landscape enhancements can residents and guests expect to see next in Lake Nona?

There’s more color in our future! We’re currently focused on Town Center as we prepare for the Wave Hotel to open in the next year. We want to enhance the Town Center’s walkability by adding in a variety of trees and plants to make it a very botanical and tropical experience.

You’re going to see more artwork and sculptures like the ones from Argentina that were recently placed throughout Town Center and the neighborhoods. The new sculptures will be colorful and bigger than the ones we have now. Depending on their design, they could be used in new landscaping at Pixon.

You may have noticed a big pink tree off Nemours Parkway near Town Center. It was painted by Samantha’s Walls who also installed the new Prismatic Mural in Town Center. When we realized that tree wasn’t going to make it, we were inspired by public art in Chicago’s Lincoln Park where they painted dead trees before removing them.

We’re always interested in exploring ways to bring more color to our natural landscape in Lake Nona.

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