Ecology + Design

Landscape Design – Redesigning a Backyard Landscape – Putnam County

Transforming What You Have Into What You Want

This landscape design challenge was exemplified by a backyard project along the Hudson River. When we arrived on the scene, a large part of the backyard (about 30%) was paved, impervious asphalt driveway.



Two large storm drain/catch basins were installed directing storm water off site, down slope. Belgium block, stone curbing was installed to contain and direct water to the conventional drainage system. Additionally a white vinyl fence was installed around the perimeter for containment and screening. Of course if that weren’t enough, there was the ubiquitous outdoor shed for storage placed directly in line of site with the street/driveway entrance. In an ideal world, this would not exist without an overall plan and vision for developing the property/landscape. Very often this is the kind of hardscape improvement which uses up much of the budget and available resources before a proper plan is developed. So anyway…work with what you have!


At least the above ground swimming pool was removed before we started, although the fill/topsoil used to regrade and establish a lawn, which was later proposed to be removed, was kind of unnecessary. The proposed design, one of many versions, included creating a courtyard/patio for relaxing and entertaining. The design intention was to develop an outdoor living space which was both intimately serene and inviting as well positively energized to neutralize the effect of the powerful water treatment plant between the backyard and the river. This would be achieved with a combination of trees, flowering shrubs and perennial beds integrated with a beautiful natural stone patio/walk.


We would construct/build this stone patio/walk on a gravel base with polymetric sand joints to allow for storm water infiltration. Within the garden room/space, we included and placed earth elements intended for visual as well as sensory focus and enjoyment/appreciation (see Gardening with Feng Shui Principles or Love to Know How: Feng Shui) which utilize the basic principals of Feng Shui (the Art of Placement) in our landscape design practice. These elements/features include a fire pit (could be gas or wood), a fountain/water feature, a wooden arbor/gate and a stone bench.

Not represented in this version/design are; a green-roof to complete the screening of the water treatment plant, painted murals on the fence depicting birds and vines, mirrors placed behind plants in the landscape to reflect the sky, clouds, flowers and birds and butterflies we would be inviting in by plant selection (for ideas see Westchester Community College)

If the landscape is designed with love and care, attention to detail and a feeling for health, well-being and beauty, it will be everything we could hope for in home improvement and lifestyle enhancement.

Jay Archer, President



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