Ecology + Design

GJL Hosts Healthy Yard Garden Tour | Rye, NY

Ever wonder what a landscape designer’s home landscape is like? Westchester homeowners gathered on September 13th at Jay Archer’s personal home to tour his ever-evolving wild landscape.  The tour was part of a larger healthy yard garden tour of Westchester organized by Bedford 2020’s Healthy Yard project, an initiative promoting natural and organic landscape practices that work to improve the environment, rather than degrade it. promotes natural, organic landscaping in Westchester, NY communities.

Healthy Yards & Bedford 2030

Healthy Yards’ grassroots efforts to promote ecological landscaping practices are extremely commendable and we feel fortunate to have such passionate and effective partners in the community. Bedford 2020, founded in 2010 set out to reduce the town of Bedford, NY’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 by promoting a broad range of environmental practices. In May of 2019 they announced a staggering 70% reduction in emissions! Read about the new goals set for 2030.

Deck-view of the constructed waterfall, stream and stone pathway and bridge.

Attendees of the Healthy Yards garden tour got to view first-hand the potential of turning a lawnscape into a thriving, ecological masterpiece.  Jay and Lora’s backyard used to be a lawn until they ripped it out and designed a waterfall, stream and fishpond surrounded completely by gardens.

Woodland walk around the perimeter of property, beneath mature trees.
River Birch allee along the pathway leading to the wetland.
Fungus growing on stumps lining the pathway create a focal point that celebrates natures processes.

Site Conditions: Use to Inform & Enhance Design

The backyard is part shade, bordered by mature trees, and abutting by a twenty-two acre wetland. Stone and wood chip paths meander through the mostly-native garden areas, each designed with an ecological purpose –creating habitat for pollinators, birds, absorbing rainwater, and enriching the soil.

Constructed waterfall framed by black-eyed susan and an evergreen berm.

Kinetic sculptures create focal points, especially during the winter months, as does the allee of river birch trees leading to the wetland paths. A berm of evergreens provides a backdrop to the waterfall, who’s soothing trickling fills the landscape for seven months of the year.

Natural stone walkway forks at the kinetic sculpture, turn either way for a full walking loop of the backyard perennial garden.
Beauty in the early fall garden featuring black-eyed susan, New York ironweed and hydrangea.
Joe Pye Weed and NY Ironweed — pollinator favorites in late summer / early fall.
This kinetic sculpture is a focal point at the culmination of three walkways. NY Ironweed and Black-eyed Susan make a fabulous pairing in the rear garden.

Pick Plants with Ecological Value

The shrubs and perennials were chose for the value to pollinators and birds – providing food sources, host sites, shelter and nesting materials for these essential species in need of protecting. Some native perennials, like New York Ironweed, migrated over from the wetland and returns in abundance every August.  Ironweed is a favorite of Monarchs, and a delight in the garden when well managed – its height and proclivity can make it easily overtake a garden left unattended.

Monarch feeding on NY Ironweed.

Design Spaces for Gathering, Observing, Touring

Fire pit patio & seating area, nestled among the woodland garden.
Natural stone and a simplistic fire pit design match the vibe of this wild garden.


View from the balcony — a great atmosphere for entertaining!

Jay and Lora’s backyard features multiple seating areas, all with unique perspectives and experiences of the garden. The lower patio offers a direct view of the water feature and a ground-level perspective of the intricacies of a five-year-old, large native garden. Strolling along the gravel and stone path, you reach a natura stone firepit and Adirondack chairs. The second-story deck provides a birds-eye view of the entire layout, a direct sightline to the wetland, and a perfect birdwatching perch.

Bench tucked within the native perennials for a reflective, serene sit.

Ecologically Impactful Front Yard Landscape

The front landscape received a true facelift as well. The asphalt driveway was removed (4 layers!) and replaced with Porous Pave, a permeable asphalt substitute that allows stormwater to absorb through it and percolate into the aquifer.  Catch up on the Porous Pave install on our YouTube video Stormwater Lab: Porous Pave vs. Asphalt. The front walkway was completely renovated, with the help of Louis Fusco Landscape Architechts.  To the left, a pollinator garden frames a stone pathway leading to the backyard.

Native perennial garden borders the walkway from front stoop to rear yard.
Love this combination of colors and textures! This garden evolves and looks interesting throughout the seasons.

Contact us about your ecological landscape design project, or call us at 914-560-6570.

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