Ecology + Design

Designing with Native Plants for Ecological Services – Westchester County NY

When we look at many of our designed and constructed residential landscapes, what do we see? Is there a variety of plants, flowers, colors, heights? Is there a variety of different trees? Are there tall, mature trees providing shade and canopy? Is your landscape dominated by lawn? What condition is the lawn in? Are there layers of perennial beds and borders or does the lawn abruptly run into the trees? Are there any natural areas or buffers? What kind of environment surrounds your property and landscape environment? Do you have water on or near your property? What is the drainage like, too much water or too little ?
These are some of the questions Green Jay Landscape Design will ask and answer when conducting a proper site analysis and evaluation of your property. We look at the complete picture and offer a wide perspective of creative and ecological landscaping solutions.
I recently attended a lovely wedding for friends in a very attractive, very popular, country club on the sound. It was a beautiful spring day. It was way too beautiful to be sitting inside! I took a stroll around the well tended grounds to investigate the landscape. As a naturalist in the Spring, I find myself first looking for birds. Although this landscape was attractive to the eye, there was a complete and total absence of birds with the exception of the most common species (morning doves, starlings, sparrows, crows, blackbirds etc..). Why is this? Well, as scavengers they are adapted to our ecologically poor landscapes. Although there were many flowering plants in bloom (daffodils, Japanese cherries, bradford pears, forsythia etc.), there really weren’t any bee’s or other insects. Like most of our older commercial or residential landscapes the property was dominated by lawn, specimen exotic trees and evergreens.
In the past, landscape designers, architects and even homeowners and gardeners did not ask the question…What ecological value and services does the landscape provide?…Does it provide shelter, habitat and food for beneficial organisms in the form of birds, wildlife, bee’s, insects, butterflies etc?
As a result of these inconsiderations, many residential landscapes have become void of the very life producing elements necessary for any ecosystem and landscape to function in all but the most basic, sterile way. This means that you can have a visually attractive and stimulating landscape which not only doesn’t produce sustainable and beneficial life, but additionally, it requires a huge amount of negative human input to maintain in the form of mowing, weeding, pruning (most often in the shape of meatballs), fertilizing and pesticide use and abuse.
Luckily for all of us, this is how we related to our landscapes in the recent past and not how live in our landscapes now!
Culturally, we are now learning to value and embrace nature and all the precious resources available to us here in the northeast.
We live in one of the most economically, culturally and ecologically richest areas of this country and possibly the world!
We rarely have floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes or other natural disasters.
We have an abundance of clean air, water and moderate weather.
We have come so far in the areas of landscape design and development! We now use our artistic creativity as well as our knowledge and enthusiasm for natural science and conservation to create beautiful, highly functional ecological “Landscapes for Better Living” to be enjoyed by ourselves, our families and all the wonderful creatures we share this beautiful world and forever!

Jay Archer, President


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