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Chesapeake Helps Falling Garden Leap Forward in Time

Our exceptional team at Chesapeake Irrigation & Lighting recently completed a unique sprinkler system install that was more than two centuries in the making.

A breathtaking site to behold, the Hampton National Historic Site’s Falling Garden is said to have been one of the largest earth moving projects in America when it was constructed in the 1780s. Located in Northern Baltimore, its multi-terraced, geometric gardens, known as parterres, were completed by 1810. And for the next 200 years, professional gardeners (and, most recently, park rangers) have meticulously planted and maintained the property’s lush and vibrant landscaping.

But only within the last month has the site been equipped with an automatic irrigation system.

That’s where we came in.

Better Late Than Never

After 230 years, Hampton’s Falling Gardens were given the greenlight for automatic irrigation. 

The National Park Service had been trying for some time to obtain approval for an automatic irrigation system for the Falling Garden.

Up until this point, park rangers had been planting, weeding, and dragging hoses to keep things healthy and green. On the days that they were not present, nothing really transpired, making an automatic irrigation system an increasing priority.

When the park service ultimately received approval in December 2015, our team was brought onboard to serve as a certified irrigation designer for the project. Within a month’s time, we had delivered the design, the specs – the whole nine yards.

Approximately eight months later, the project was put out to bid. Chesapeake requested, and landed, the job.

Walk Softly, Carry a Big Plow

The question soon became: How do you approach a three-tiered, meticulously landscaped landmark that has existed for 230 years without an automatic sprinkler system?

The answer, our team quickly realized, is very carefully.

Because the Falling Garden is part of a protected national park, sensitivity is tantamount to any project unfolding on its grounds. The Hampton site is populated by several centuries-old buildings, one of which we tapped into to get our water supply.

To avoid drilling through, and thus disturbing this 230-year-old Maryland treasure, The National Park Service required our team to dig under the foundation in order to access the water line.

Similarly, we encountered multiple cobblestone walkways throughout the installation process, and – unavoidably – disturbed some of this hardscaping in the midst of our work. Before moving onward, our team painstakingly replaced the cobblestones as best we could.

Various tools, too, made the installation a swift and efficient success.

Our team’s use of a vibratory plow – equipped with a long, thin blade that pulled pipe underground, leaving only the most minimal trail – eliminated the need to trench through existing landscape and turf.

Perhaps most interestingly – the greenhouse that provided our water supply had never been outfitted with electricity; perhaps not an issue for a historic landmark – but a clear necessity for an automatic sprinkler system. The solution? Our team installed a pedestal-mounted irrigation controller powered by a single solar panel.

And the Rest is History

From start to finish, Chesapeake’s installation took approximately a week and a half and was completed in September 2015.

Two existing gardens are fully planted, fully in bloom, and currently being irrigated. Another two gardens exist on a lower tier, which are prepped and defined, with irrigation in place. Planting is currently taking place there. Two final gardens are located on yet a third, lower, tier. Although planting is not currently scheduled for those, the automatic irrigation system is expandable and Chesapeake hopes to return for that stage of installation whenever the Hampton National Historic Site decides to move ahead.

With the recent chill in the air confirming the arrival of fall, our team will soon put the Falling Garden irrigation system to bed for the winter. It will be reactivated in the springtime, so that visitors to the historic site can fully enjoy this truly remarkable landscaping achievement.