Biz Buzz: Lifescapes International Brings Joy Through Trees

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2016-miracles-manor-hi-res-8450Trees. They’re all around us, yet all too often we zip by without giving trees a second notice—until you need them for a specific purpose, or until for some inexplicable reason you simply tune in to their distinctiveness.

The directors of Miracle Manor, a 12-unit sanctuary in Orange for critically ill children and their oft-times financially challenged families from throughout Orange County, understand a most fundamental element of trees: they enhance and enrich the environment in which they grow and thrive, and they encourage families who bask in their tranquil shade to feel better.

At Miracle Manor, comfort and peacefulness are certainly keys to hopeful recovery.  But in tearful reality, some children at the manor may not get to enjoy tomorrow’s blossoms.

Few people know the attributes of trees, shrubs and flowers better than Donald Brinkerhoff, the 86-year-old chairman and founder of award-winning Lifescapes International of Newport Beach.

Certainly, his staff of 46 “plantscape” designers understands the myriad contributions of plant life. For nearly six2016-miracles-manor-hi-res-8477 decades, Brinkerhoff’s creativity with trees and foliage have helped transition the desert grounds of Las Vegas’ leading hotels into verdant oases of color and vibrancy, as the Brinkerhoff family has for a multitude of properties throughout Newport Beach, and surrounding communities.

As well, their reputation is well engraved throughout Asia, especially at many of the major hotels across the breadth of China, plus the Middle East, Europe and Latin America.

The Brinkerhoffs are also lauded for their charitable giving, from industry-specific college scholarships to HomeAid America. And that is why Lifescapes was sought out to design the garden environment at Miracle Manor. Their result soared far beyond simply dropping seeds in prepared soil.

Julie Brinkerhoff-Jacobs, president and CFO of Lifescapes International, “recruited friends” within the landscape and lighting industries to design and install a “mature garden right away, with many mini-retreats” for individual family gatherings.

2016-miracles-manor-hi-res-8613Philadelphia-based Bright View Landscaping, through its Fountain Valley field office, arranged for more than 100 volunteers from their other Southern California facilities to install more than $30,000 worth of vines, shrubs and ground cover (donated by Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach) in two intense planting days earlier in the year.

Fifteen Bright View crewmembers planted a forest of fully mature trees during a one-week period, noted Chuck diGarmo, vice president of national business development for Bright View, adding, “All the trees were donated by our own nursery, because we like to contribute to the communities where we work.”

When finished, said Brinkerhoff-Jacobs, all gifts, including time, skills and product, totaled $350,000.

“Each area of the property, from the entrance to the playhouse to the circular walkway that encompasses the property, is carefully planned to be a safe and beautiful space,” said Autumn Strier, co-founder and CEO of Miracles for Kids, the umbrella charity for Miracle Manor. “It has been designed as a haven for critically ill children and their families, thanks to the inspirational genius of the Lifescapes team.”

Brinkerhoff-Jacobs credits much of that “inspirational genius” to Executive Senior Principal Roger Voettiner, a 40-year company veteran. His tree and plant choices helped to transform Miracle Manor into a “retreat of rest and healing.”

Among the trees and plants: Crepe myrtle trees, Strawberry trees (they mark the Manor’s entry points like multi-trunk living sculptures), Peppermint trees, little gem magnolia, and stately king palms.

“Larger shrubs provide some privacy while still keeping spaces open, as well as providing green boundaries to define the space,” Meyers said.

There are no signs in Miracle Manor’s now lush and verdant gardens that trumpet, “Keep off the Grass!”

Lifescapes’ ultimate design was based on the manor’s staffs’ vision of what was best for their little patients and their families: space and sanctuary.

And precious time enriched by trees.

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