Horticulturist beautifies roadways in Danville, Va.

April Dailey, horticultural supervisor for the Danville, Va., Public Works Department, creates design plans for landscape scenes as part of the Danville Interchange Gardens (DIG) program established in 2000. The program revolves around beautifying the cloverleafs and interchanges in the city, such as the main ones of Central Boulevard and Riverside Drive, Piedmont Drive and Piney Forest Road, and West Main Street and Central Boulevard.

In her job, she draws many plans by hand and uses a computer-aided design software program that allows her to overlap engineered drawings with plant material. After the plans are drawn, she can share them with staff within her department and in other city departments.

The Danville Interchange Gardens (DIG) program offers sponsorships of $3,000 per year to local businesses and garden clubs. This DIG site at the Southwest interchange of Central Boulevard and Riverside Drive is sponsored by American National Bank. Inset: April Dailey, horticultural supervisor for the Danville Public Works Department in Danville, Va., uses a computer-aided design software program and an imaging program to create designs of landscape projects.

“If I need a plan that engineering has at city hall, she can e-mail it to me, and I can add my information then send it back. It cuts down on time,” Dailey says.

Dailey also has estimating and imaging programs, so she can create a design of what a landscape project will look like, then send the image and specifics to others within the city. She estimates it takes usually about a week to design a presentable project if she can sit down and do everything at once. Each project involves the design, measurements, site analysis, specifications and estimates.

Once Dailey finishes the design phase of the project, she e-mails it to Rick Drazenovicz, the Danville public works director. He checks to make sure the site lines are OK, and if the project can fit within the department’s budget. He says Dailey’s presence has made a difference and has enhanced the program.

“When we hired April, we went through an extensive search for someone who would implement a complete program from concept through design, construction and, ultimately, maintenance of the finished program,” Drazenovicz says. “April has met and exceeded those expectations. She overcame community skepticism about the merits of spending on landscaping. Each DIG site landscaped received a close look by all who passed, and the quality won them over.”

The second Danville Interchange Gardens site is located at the Northeast interchange of Central Boulevard and Main Street and sponsored by Danville Regional Medical Center. This Danville Interchange Gardens program site, near the Danville Regional Medical Center, is one of five welcoming drivers to downtown Danville, Va.

He adds that his department has offered Dailey’s services to community groups and other city departments. The city has placed special emphasis on new economic development landscaping sites, which have been well received, he says.

After Drazenovicz signs off on the project, it goes to Jerry Gwaltney, the Danville city manager.

“Our city manager loves color,” Dailey says. “He will sometimes send a plan back and say, ‘Add color.’ That’s really added a visual impact along Danville’s roads.”

The whole routing process takes about two weeks before approval comes back to Dailey. Then, the project is sent out for bids by contractors.

This is a computer-aided design of the Danville Interchange Gardens site located at the Northwest corner of Piney Forest Road and Riverside Drive.

Latest design projects

The 11th DIG site, done in the fall of 2007, was at Memorial Drive and Central Boulevard and consisted of planting blooming cherry trees, daylilies, black-eyed Susans, irises and fragrant shrubs called osmanthus. A stonewall was also built.

Dailey says next fall, people will be able to drive by that exit ramp and see plants blooming.

In the summer and fall of 2007, the Danville Public Works Department completed a wetlands mitigation project at Angler’s Park below the water treatment plant along the river off River Park Drive. At that site, the staff planted native wetlands, grasses, trees and shrubs to re-establish the wetland area. Those plants included willows, dogwoods, irises, rushes and sedges.

At this Danville Interchange Gardens site, a landscape crew with the Danville Public Works Department placed riprap stone along this storm drain to make it look like a creek bed.

Design planning

A lot of thought goes into producing a landscape design. “The first thing you are going to look at is how the site is viewed from the road, because all of our work on the right of way we want to see how it’s viewed, what angles it’s viewed at and what speed a car might be going when you look at that area,” Dailey says.

Looking at the site from this viewpoint allows Dailey to envision the size, shape and type of planting that need to be sown.

“The faster you are going, the less detail you are going to see, so we try to increase the amount of color on a road where slower traffic can actually enjoy and see the details,” she says.

The department uses mass plantings or hundreds of plants in areas with high traffic volume or high speed.

Before designing an area, Dailey and her staff also review how plantings will look on the exit ramps, which sometimes can be viewed at 360 degrees. Site view can be a problem if not correctly planned. “In fact, we have improved areas where that site line is obstructed by a planting,” she says. “There was one area where we took plants out and replaced them with low-growing plants to eliminate that problem. That’s probably one of the more important factors [when planning] is site line and visibility.”

When planning, they look at color schemes, choose a theme for most of the landscapes and make sure that the Dan River is taken into account. The river runs through parts of the city landscape, “So, we try to pick up on that by using stone works, placing boulders on site, using a lot of ornamental grasses and having bedlines that mimic the curve of the river,” Dailey says.

Site maintenance is a huge factor when designing. Dailey tries to choose the best plants for the space available, and plants that require the least maintenance, such as ones that don’t require a lot of pruning, that are tolerant to diseases and that grow best in the region.

Garden sponsorship

The first DIG site was located at Central Boulevard and West Main Street and consisted of crepe myrtle trees, wax myrtle and chindo viburnum. For color effect, they used azaleas, dogwoods, abelia and nandina. On the northwest slope, they planted several perennials such as black-eyed Susan, Russian sage, sedum, purple coneflower and ornamental grasses.

The first site for the Danville Interchange Gardens program was located at Central Boulevard and West Main Street and featured crepe myrtle trees, wax myrtle, chindo viburnum, azaleas, dogwoods, abelia, nandina, black-eyed Susans, Russian sage, sedum, purple coneflower and ornamental grasses. The sixth site in the Danville Interchange Gardens program is located at the Northwest interchange of Central Boulevard and Riverside Drive and is sponsored by First Piedmont.

The DIG program offers sponsorships of projects. As of February 2008, 10 out of 11 sites had received sponsorship, Dailey says. Sponsorships cost $3,000 per year and are available to corporate sponsors and garden clubs. Besides a monetary donation, sponsorship involves placing a sign with the company name or logo on it at the site. The Danville Public Works Department maintains the sites.

A 12th DIG site is planned this spring with planting to begin in March, hopefully with a sponsor, Dailey says. The site will be located across from the current retail and restaurant development project underway called Coleman Marketplace off Piedmont Drive and Piney Forest Road near the Piedmont Mall. Ideas being kicked around for the site include a waterfall or a small creek bed, as well as low-growing trees and shrubs.

A landscape crew with the Danville Public Works Department unloads and spreads mulch at the Danville Interchange Gardens site located at the Northwest interchange of North Main Street and Riverside Drive.

Dailey’s background

While in high school, Dailey worked for a summer at Danville-located Raywood Landscape Center, where she found the world of plants that encouraged her career pursuit. She attended North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., where she studied landscape and horticulture.

After college, Dailey worked for about six years at Earth Graphics, a landscape design firm with headquarters in Greensboro, N.C. She helped open an Earth Graphics franchise in Charlotte, N.C.

Eventually, Dailey accepted the job as horticultural supervisor for the city of Danville, where she has worked about six years. She becomes excited when she can do hands-on planting and see the work at each DIG site through the entire process.

“I can draw the plan up then I can go out with the crews, watch it happen and help to build it,” Dailey says. “That’s probably where I get my most enjoyment, watching everything develop.”

This drawing plan of the 12th site in Danville Interchange Gardens program shows the various landscape plantings at the Northwest interchange of Central Boulevard and Piedmont Mall Drive.

For the Danville Public Works Department’s beautification program, it won a Scenic Award from Scenic Virginia, Inc. in 2004 for most creative scenic improvement for a city. Scenic Virginia, Inc. is a private beautification organization located in Richmond, Va.

Gabriella Garden Club sponsored this ninth site in the Danville Interchange Gardens program. The site is located at the Northeast interchange of Central Boulevard and Piedmont Drive in Danville, Va.

Dailey works and juggles duties with Benny Alford, landscape supervisor and his crews. He schedules, builds the projects and maintains the sties as far as watering, applying pesticides, pruning and mulching. To help Dailey achieve her goals, Drazenovicz says Alford has selected a staff that has an interest in plants and landscaping, so they will display enthusiasm in their work. Also to assist Dailey, the Danville Public Works Department has built a greenhouse, allocated space for a nursery and supplied landscape vehicles.

Future plans

Drazenovicz says the department will remain focused on the DIG program and try to convince sponsors that their support will make a difference. “It will keep April busy for many years,” he says.

In the next five years, Dailey says color may fill the Danville landscape. “I’d like to put color on every corner, continue building landscape sites and plant as many trees and flowers as we are able to,” she says.

Accomplishing those things will beautify the city of Danville, bring civic pride to the area and be a more pleasant place to drive through, Dailey says, and “it’s boosting our economic development.”

The author is a freelance writer in Danville, Va.