Ecology + Design

Case Study: Landscape Plan for a Private, Residential Nature Preserve in Fairfield County, CT

The wind whispers, birds sing, flowers unfold and bloom throughout the seasons of your lives. Sweet fragrance fills the air, trees and grasses sway as you embrace the wild, the beating heart of nature, a symphony complete, where all the players play their partat home in your Private Nature Preserve.

This could be your property. Your home landscape oasis. The above is an excerpt of a design proposal from one of our favorite projects of the year. A multi-acre private nature preserve we designed over the winter and are currently in phase 2 of installing. 

This is part two of our blog series on nature preserves, where we explore how ecological landscape design can achieve the same goals of preservation, connection with nature, and mental health renewal—at a residential scale. Catch up on our first blog, Designing a Private Nature Preserve at Home

In this post, we’ll be diving into a case study in Fairfield County, CT – an estate abutting a wetland – that has been one of the most fun and rewarding projects of 2021. The client hired us because she liked our naturalistic style and ecological perspective. The client requested a design that would highlight the property’s existing features while bringing more vibrance, life and activity to the estate.

Design Concept: Natural Paradise

Starting each project with a strong design point of view and concept is an essential part of the vision. Jay’s Design Proposals really capture the feeling of being in a naturalistic landscape. Below are some excerpts from this client’s Design Proposal:

Enter the sacred grove through the continuum of evergreens and arrive at the entrance shield, where the mighty oaks stand atop the torc guardians, the cosmic storehouse of strength, knowledge, truth and independence.

The harmony and balance restored to your lovely property will attract the spirit of nature in all its mystery and manifestations. The rich diversity of plant life will establish a sensory portal through which you may experience the awesome majesty and primal reality of a truly authentic natural world.

By employing the powerful forces of biodynamics and planting in the phases of the moon, the energy of the heavens and earth will be optimized to improve the vitality and longevity of all biological life in your landscape ecosystem. 

A model for an egalitarian life, living with nature, cherishing the precious natural resources as a gift in an imperfect world, may you celebrate the joy of being all the days of your lives, in health and happiness, now and forever.

We strive to design our ideal nature. Serene. Undisturbed. Full of Life. We manifest the feeling of walking through the woods or by a meadow. A national park at home, minus the crowds, tour busses, and selfie sticks. Rather, our havens of designed ecosystems are begging you to wander a path, fall asleep beneath a tree, and listen to the melodic buzz and song of all the creatures around you. (Check out Homegrown National Park to put your property on the map!)

Assessing & Designing Microclimates

A property of this size will inevitably have microclimates – some zones will be shadier, wetter, more acidic, etc. than others. An obvious example at this site was the border of mature trees – a woodland overstory begging for an understory! We designed a garden spanning the entire northern border of the property, beneath the fabulous tree giants.  The plant palette included an abundance of native flowering and fruiting shrubs and our favorite woodland perennials. 

Another example of a microclimate is the expansive lawn area – hot, dry and sunny. We decided to accentuate the existing steps with two large meadow pollinator gardens on either side. Meadow plants perform best in lean, dry, sunny locations, so it was a no-brainer!

Near the house, we designed our own microclimate – a birch grove that both lends privacy from inside the house and creates another outdoor zone of tranquility. Underplanted with Carex and other native groundcovers, the birch grove will look and feel like the natural edge environment where meadow meets forest.  

Designing to accentuate each property’s existing natural features is a signature component of our POV when designing private nature preserves. Incorporating existing mature trees into the landscape composition gives the site a sense of permanence and longevity.

Whimsical Creativity

This property had so much opportunity for whimsy! We designed spiraled berm gardens for a dramatic entrance to the home. Planting them with native flowering shrubs creates continuity between the woodland understory nearby (both aesthetically, and for birds seeking food and shelter!).

The norther woodland garden has a woodchip path that meanders the length of the property, encouraging walking, observation and reflection. As you return to the house, duck into the willow fence tunnel or stop to doze beneath the birch trees.

Up by the pool area, an in-set serpentine garden bed makes even the hardscaping feel softened and connected to the landscape.

In all of these design choices, we sought elements that would invite the client’s interaction with the landscape.  This is not five acres of lawn to look at from your window! Just like visiting a national or state park, our residential landscapes are best when explored.

Green Jay Landscape Design

Where Design x Meets Ecology


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