Sara Kovachich, UF landscape architecture student, a winner!

UF graduate student in landscape architecture, Sara Kovachich, working in the plant studio.

UF graduate student in landscape architecture, Sara Kovachich, working in the plant studio.

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University of Florida graduate student Sara Kovachich told her roommate that this month couldn’t get any better: “I won a design competition and got an internship in Costa Rica!” Kovachich’s innovative coastal landscape design was the winner for Central Florida in the Florida Association of Native Nurseries’ Real Florida Landscapes™ Design Competition.

Kovachich’s design will be installed as one of three demonstration landscapes at the Native Plant Show, April 4 and 5 at the Osceola Heritage Park Exhibition Building, 1901 Chief Osceola Trail, Kissimmee. The wholesale tradeshow is the first in Florida to feature nothing but native plants for sustainable landscapes. A formal presentation of the her landscape and award will be made 1:00pm Thursday, April 4.

A statewide jury of leading landscape architects evaluated sixteen submittals and selected Kovachich’s entry as the best Central Florida design, beating out professional landscape architects and designers. Kovachich said her goal was to “create an attractive and low-maintenance coastal landscape that showcases the diversity of colors, textures and forms of native plants and provides food and cover for wildlife. I want to show how each of us, even at a small scale, can take a step toward providing for wildlife and conserving nature in a less resource-intensive and more artful landscape. Native plants are an essential part of gardening for the future.” Judges praised Kovachich’s “great design” and its ability to create a special human experience in the landscape.

A native of South Florida herself, Kovachich hopes to blend her interest in art, the environment, and practical design in an outdoor career with plants. She has a B.S. in environmental science and will graduate in May 2015 with a master’s degree in landscape architecture. Kovachich seems to have a knack for getting involved in unique projects. In 2011, she interned with the University of Arizona, researching the effects of drought on green roof plants in the renowned Biosphere 2 observatory. For her summer 2013 internship in Costa Rica, Kovachich will oversee the design and planting of an ethnobotanical garden, a medicinal garden and an aquaponics system serving an ecolodge and working farm.

Kovachich’s design will be viewed by more than 200 horticulture and landscape professionals from around the state who are attending the show to learn about the latest uses of native plants in urban landscaping. Nearly 40 Florida native plant growers will exhibit at the show, including growers of large trees and shrubs, wildflowers, aquatics, rare or hard to find plants, and endangered species. Show sponsors are using the award-winning demonstration landscapes and two days of professional continuing education courses to promote the use of native plants for Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ that conserves water, enhances biodiversity and meets or exceeds contemporary aesthetic standards. Their hope is that the show will serve to inspire leading landscape professionals to transform Florida’s urban landscape to one that is more authentic and sustainable.

Jurors for the design competition included:
Jeff Caster, State Transportation Landscape Architect at the Florida Department of Transportation and past president of the Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA);
George Fogg, IBIS Landscape Architect and ASLA Fellow;
Raymond Jungles, landscape architect honored by ASLA with seventeen design awards;
Stephen Pategas, President of Hortus Oasis and published garden/landscape writer; and
Scott Redmon, Redmon Design, landscape architect for the New American Home 2012 in Winter Park, a sustainability showcase project of the North American Home Builders International Builder’s Show.