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Take a journey through the design and construction process of one of David Slawson's garden projects:


Children's Adventure Garden at Garvan Woodland Gardens


SITE :    In summer 2007 David designed and directed rockwork for Garvan Woodland Gardens' new Children's Adventure Garden in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The site is a wooded north-facing slope approached by an elevated, curving 8-foot wide walkway.

CLIENT:    Mrs. Verna Garvan gave 210 acres of wooded land on Lake Hamilton to the University of Arkansas to be developed as Arkansas' premier botanical garden. The University's Department of Landscape Architecture is responsible for developing and maintaining the gardens. A major endowment by Bob and Sunny Evans has spurred this exciting garden project dedicated to providing children with experiences of nature.

DESIGN INSPIRATION:     The two primary features of the Children's Adventure Garden are a series of linked treehouses with concept by landscape architect Brent Vinson and final design by the Portico Group, and the rockwork designed and directed by David Slawson. More than 2,000 tons of field rock and boulders were supplied by Bennett Brothers and Millsaps. With his rock artistry David created a stream course to channel water pumped from Lake Hamilton to exit at the top of the south slope, plummet as a waterfall over the top of a cave, and flow down a little gorge cutting through the most ambitious geological feature, the Ledges, about 80 feet long and up to 12 feet high. The Ledges  includes a rock-covered passageway 30 feet long and caves in the rocks for children to explore and climb. The crowning feature is Cave Falls, with a waterfall under which the more adventuresome can walk or ride in a wheelchair (the opening from the bottom of the falls overflow rock to the floor of the cave is almost 7 feet high). The cave itself is almost 20 feet wide and has an egress hole set with natural stone steps in the back. To gain inspiration for the Ledges feature, David visited several Arkansas landscapes, including Blanchard Springs Cavern, Pedestal Rocks, and Petit Jean State Park. Among the photos below, you'll see the feature that mimics Pedestal Rocks. All the rock features have been created from native Arkansas rocks left just as nature shaped them in the Ozark and Ouachita geologic ranges, gathered within a 2-hour drive.


Upper stream rockwork viewed from below

Photo by Sylvia M. Banks



Welcome Center Entry Garden at Garvan Woodland Gardens



Welcome Center land cut

The typical response to a land cut like this is a retaining wall, which solves for practical concerns like erosion, but ignores or downplays the human need for beauty and connection with nature.


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Last modified: 03/03/13