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The Big One: City in bloom

February 11, 2021 -  By
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Company: Moore Landscapes
Location: Chicago

All eyes are on the Midwest headquarters of JPMorgan Chase in downtown Chicago and the plaza the building overlooks. Moore Landscapes has managed the Chase Tower Plaza (also known as Exelon Plaza) since fall 2018. Expectations are high for the plaza and the surrounding landscape. The plaza, which is home to the “Four Seasons” mosaic by Marc Chagall, is open to the public and attracts visitors throughout the year.

Moore Landscapes Account Executive Paul Sheets says the colorful mosaic was a big consideration in the landscape design.

“I tried to do different levels of colors to draw the colors from the mosaic into the landscape,” he says.

The plaza has two tiers: a lower level and a street level. Crews make large-scale changes during the weekend because parking in Chicago’s Loop District can be hard to come by. Crews service the plaza early in the morning during the workweek.

Spider mites plague the honey locust trees that surround the plaza. Sheets says he worked with Moore Landscapes’ arborist to deploy predatory mites instead of spray applications to help control the spider mite populations. Though the client was unsure about the control measures at first, using biocontrols aligns with LEED guidelines, Sheets says.

“I had to educate them first, and it turned out to be very successful,” he says. “We released the predatory mites, and the trees stayed green.”

This project earned Moore Landscapes a 2020 Gold Award from the National Association of Landscape Professionals’ Awards of Excellence program.

Chase Tower Plaza (Photo: Moore Landscapes)

(Photo: Moore Landscapes)

Chase Tower Plaza is a full city block in the heart of the Chicago Loop. The plaza has a street level and a below-street level. The street-level plaza has numerous raised planters with shrubs, flowering trees, large deciduous trees and seasonal color displays. The space also incorporates public art, including a bronze clock and a fountain.

Chase Tower Plaza (Photo: Moore Landscapes)

(Photo: Moore Landscapes)

Crews access the below street levels by wide stairs to move all maintenance equipment, plant material, racks of annual flowers and debris. Because the plaza is a popular meeting space, crews perform all maintenance early in the morning before rush hour or during off-hours. Crews install seasonal plantings on the weekends.

Chase Tower Plaza (Photo: Moore Landscapes)

(Photo: Moore Landscapes)

Crews plant 10,000 tulip bulbs throughout the beds on all three levels in the late fall and cover with sod for protection. For summer annual planting, crews remove the sod and install pine fines to cover and amend the soil.

Chase Tower Plaza (Photo: Moore Landscapes)

(Photo: Moore Landscapes)

Crews plant summer flowers in late spring after the tulips. Colors and flower types change every year, but coleus and cannas are favorites of the client. On planting day, racks of flowers line the sidewalk and the lower levels. The crews must always be aware of their surroundings; there are many distractions, pedestrians and vehicle traffic nearby. Crews put safety cones around trucks and work area and remove tools and debris immediately upon completion.

Chase Tower Plaza (Photo: Moore Landscapes)

(Photo: Moore Landscapes)

The street-level raised beds are popular spots for sitting. Crews trim flowers to the edge but not over the granite planting beds. Weekly maintenance includes replacing damaged flowers as needed along with the routine deadheading.

Chase Tower Plaza (Photo: Moore Landscapes)

Chase Tower Plaza (Photo: Moore Landscapes)

Hedges provide structure in flower beds. Crews shear ‘Miss Kim’ lilac and spirea shrubs three times a year after they bloom with touch-up pruning in between. The client expects hedges to be meticulously maintained with no visible shoots. Crews prune in the early morning. A crew member on the ground directs pedestrians away from the work area.

Chase Tower Plaza (Photo: Moore Landscapes)

(Photo: Moore Landscapes)

Fifty-two mature honey locust trees surround the plaza. Moore Landscapes’ arborist performs light pruning annually. Predatory mites control the spider mite population on the honey locust trees. Using biocontrols meets the client’s need for LEED compliance.

Chase Tower Plaza (Photo: Moore Landscapes)

(Photo: Moore Landscapes)

‘Limelight’ hydrangeas fill one of the raised beds that frame Marc Chagall’s “Four Seasons,” a 70-foot-long, free-standing ceramic wall mosaic in the upper plaza. To meet the client’s sustainability goals, Moore Landscapes’ flower displays now consist of approximately half perennial shrubs instead of entirely annuals.

Chase Tower Plaza (Photo: Moore Landscapes)

(Photo: Moore Landscapes)

Japanese lilac trees, hydrangeas and hostas surround air vents and mechanical structures to soften their hard shapes. Moore Landscapes monitors plants in this area for stress and damage. Crews replace shrubs and plants as needed. Trellised Mandevilla vines and decorative boulders add height and interest.

Chase Tower Plaza (Photo: Moore Landscapes)

(Photo: Moore Landscapes)

Inspiration for each year’s flower selection is the “Four Seasons” mosaic in the plaza. Moore Landscapes uses plantings to reflect the movement in the mosaic. ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass fills planters throughout the plaza.

Chase Tower Plaza (Photo: Moore Landscapes)

(Photo: Moore Landscapes)

Crews weed beds and clean up debris on the site’s sidewalks, granite walls and seating around the beds. Crews also fertilize flower beds every other week through the summer and monitor soil moisture levels in annual flower beds and perennial shrub areas.

Christina Herrick

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