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Tack Room Landscaping At WEF Is An Art Form

WELLINGTON, FL - February 17, 2004 - From the moment one takes the turn off Pierson Road onto Equestrian Club Road, landscaping at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, Florida, becomes one of the most notable and distinguishing characteristics of the Winter Equestrian Festival. But in addition to the rolling lawns, shimmering lakes, and spectacular displays of flowers that greet visitors as they approach the spectator gates and surround the competition rings, there are also many outstanding works of landscaping art in the 'backstage' area of the show grounds. The stabling area where the horses live is also where the riders, grooms, owners, clients and relatives congregate, and many barns have used landscaping to personalize their spots as well as provide a lovely Tack Room area. Here are a few examples of the range of artistry on display at the 32nd Winter Equestrian Festival. Spectators are welcome to walk the grounds and view the stall areas.

An outstanding example of professional workmanship, Skara Glen Stables features a floral theme of blues, reds, pinks, and whites that offsets the barn's colors - navy blue draperies with light blue trim. Lopez Landscaping of Lake Worth, Florida, designed and installed the plants and the concrete and stonework.

The dramatic entrance is a walkway of slate stone pavers flanked by dual sets of lush blooms in deep purple-red bougainvillea, multi-headed green Eugenia topiary, and feathery green Robellini. New Guinea impatiens surround the Robellinis - white around one and pink around the other. Blue Plumbagos encircle the topiaries and white impatiens set off the bougainvillea. A Eugenia hedge lines the front of the draperies, and deep green St. Augustine sod creates a lawn around the temporary barn, which is actually a huge tent structure.

"Basically what we are doing is painting with plants," explains Edwin Lopez who has operated his Lopez Landscaping Design and Irrigation Inc. for 26 years. He added the horse show division in response to client demand and is in his sixth season at WEF. Edwin has worked with Skara Glen Stables for the past five years. "This year we decided to do something different from previous years. We put in specimen plants - the bougainvilleas, the topiaries, and the hedge with the plan that when the show is over, they will all be transplanted back to the Skara Glen farm and put into a three-year landscape project that we have going on there," Edwin explained. In addition to the paver walkways, Edwin added poured concrete curbing and a concrete parking pad for two golf carts. To show it all off, Edwin installed low voltage lighting with a timer for illumination at night.

Edwin Lopez is well known at the show grounds and has several installations on display. For his clients that don't have a farm nearby, Edwin rents plants and then takes them back to his fields at the end of the circuit, where they are sold or nurtured for use again next year. Edwin recalls that just five years ago he came to WEF to do one set-up for his first client, Venture Place. "It snowballed," he said. "Everybody liked it and started calling and ever since then it's been like the Flower Horse Show!"

Ken and Emily Smith have 75 stalls in their temporary barn. With staff, they started their landscaping themselves, installing the landscape timbers and the pavers-and-rock walkway, but when it came to acquiring plants they called in a professional - R. O. Smith Landscaping, Inc. of Lake Worth, Florida. The ultra clean lines and drama of the green-on-green of drapes and plants is an eye-catching effect contrasted with the boldness of bright red corner flowers. The predominately green theme serves especially well to showcase the outstanding number of ribbons and awards lining the hunter green draperies.

Ron Smith and his son Ron Smith, Jr. have operated their landscaping business since 1997 and are in their third season at WEF. For Ashland Farms, they installed Alexandria Palms, Ficus Benjamina hedging, sod and red bougainvillea. Ron senior points out that even with clients who have always planted their own landscaping in the past, there does come a time when it becomes more involved than the initial plan - plus nice plants are harder to find nowadays. "It's a really time-consuming process if you're not in the business to know where these things are and how to transport them," he explained. "They're big and they're heavy." Ron installed ground asphalt as the front driveway to protect the hedge and keep the front area neat and mud-free, and also graveled all the aisles. To personalize the outdoor room, Ken and Emily added a desk, chair, lamp, trunk and photos. "Most people bring their furniture and sometimes they even bring their own decorative containers for us to put plants in," said Ron.

Ron and his son completed approximately 25 set-ups at WEF this year. "We've found that there's an art to it," said Ron. "Most people want clean, straight lines and nice-looking, full plants. You've got to know which exposures - north, south, east, or west - certain plants can go in. For example, bougainvillea needs sunlight and if you put it in the shade on the north side of a tent, it's not going to do well. And there are lots of little tricks that we've learned over the years. You always put flowers in fresh new soil, not existing soil. We put fertilizer in the holes and on the surface of the ground and then we use liquid fertilizers to stimulate the plant. They're only there for two months and they have to react quickly and look good. People want them to look good the day they're put in, which is really tough in landscaping. Once they're installed, we come out every two weeks to mow, trim and weed." R.O. Smith Landscaping, Inc. rents plants to those who can't take the landscaping with them when the show is over.

Ron is also a person who likes to give back to the community. For the past two years, he has landscaped the barn area for City Slickers, a riding program that services children who have economic, cultural, academic, social and emotional needs. City Slickers arrived February 14 and will be at WEF until March 1. Smith also donates three- and four-year-old oak and mahogany trees to local municipalities and parks.

Pat Fischer designed and installed the landscaping at her daughter Sandy Van Dyke's barn. Pat is not a professional landscaper, but says she just loves flowers and has fun creating the set-up. She liked her design from last year so well that she used it again this year. Pat stockpiled most of the elements over the summer - plants, furniture, and pavers - and brought them back this year. She installed it all herself with help from one of the men at her farm. Michael Meller of MMM Stables, a friend who stays with Pat and Sandy at their farm in Wellington, took the adjacent stalls and incorporated the look into his landscaping as well. The beautiful long line of landscaping in front of their barns is a unified look of lush purple bougainvillea, Foxtail palms, Ficus hedges, and white impatiens.

"Everything is still in pots except the impatiens, which are annuals. All those plants that we put in, we take them home and we put them in at the farm or our house. We use all of them somewhere, so needless to say our places at home look pretty good too!" Pat said. All of the plants are from Jack Vickers' Florida Son Landscaping. Pat also likes to bring her extra potted plants from home. She has orchids from her Christmas party and arrangements from Valentine's Day on display.

Pat based her design primarily on the pairing of the purple bougainvillea with the white flowers. "I always like white impatiens, I think it's kind of classic," she explained. "And this year we put more bougainvillea in to make a little privacy wall so that when we're all sitting in there we're not totally on display." To make it homey, she hung photos of Sandy and her younger daughter Juliana. She extended an open invitation to all the children who train with Sandy and Michael to hang their photos as well. New this year to the set-up is a gorgeous South African table and chairs made of bamboo rattan from Zingela Safari Interiors that Pat acquired from Idlewild Stables, a shop in Wellington.

Pat says their whole entourage is making use of her design. "We've had a fair amount of rain the last two weekends, so frankly it's very nice to have a place for the kids' grandparents and anybody else who wants to get up out of the mud to sit down and have a lunch or have a snack. We have our own little private area. You really get more out of it than you would think. It's not just for show, it's really a nice place to sit down and get dry for a little while and relax. It's necessary, it really is. It doesn't have to be that fancy, but we got carried away!"

With more than 4,000 horses on the show grounds each week and up to 6,000 people accompanying them as riders, grooms, and owners, there are a vast number of beautifully landscaped show barns throughout the stable area. Visitors are always welcome to tour the stabling area and view the show barn set-ups.

Show days for the 2004 Winter Equestrian Festival are Wednesday through Sunday. Gates open at 8:00 am. Ticket Prices: Wednesdays are free to everyone; Children 12 and under are admitted free every day; Young Adults 13 to 18 and Seniors are $5 on Thursday through Sunday; Adults are $5 on Thursday and Friday, $10 on Saturday, and $15 on Sunday. The Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club is located on Pierson Road off South Shore Boulevard. For additional information, visit or call 561-793-5867.

February 18 - 22 Florida Classic/WCHR Spectacular CSI-W/Y CSI-Ch
February 19 - 22 Zada Enterprises, LLC Florida Dressage Classic
February 25 - 29 PDP Capital Wellington Masters CSI***
March 3 - 7 CN Wellington Open CSI-W
March 10 - 14 CSIO United States Cosequin Finale CSIO***
March 18 - 21 Zada Enterprises WEF Dressage Classic CDI***/Y
(Qualifier for Olympic Selection Trials)
March 24 - 28 Tampa Bay Classic CSI-W (Bob Thomas Equestrian Center)
March 30 - April 3 Tournament of Champions CSI-W (Bob Thomas Equestrian Center)
April 3 Budweiser American Invitational (Raymond James Stadium)

February 22 $60,000 Idle Dice Classic, presented by Palm Beach Post, CSI-W
February 29 $75,000 PDP Capital Masters Cup, CSI***
March 7 $75,000 CN Wellington Open presented by Estates of Wellington Green, CDI-W
March 12 $50,000 Samsung Nations' Cup, presented by CN, CSIO****
March 14 $100,000 Cosequin U.S. Open Jumper Championship, CSIO****
March 28 $75,000 Grand Prix of Tampa, presented by Kilkenny/ICH, CSI-W
April 3 $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational, presented by The Tampa Tribune


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