Ecology + Design

Landscape Renovation, Going Green with Landscapes for Better Living – Chappaqua NY

This project is a classic case of overgrown, tired landscaping which does not reflect the client/homeowners taste, style and sensibility. As shown by the before and after photos, the front (and rear as well) landscape is dominated by unattractive, unhealthy trees and shrubs.

This existing condition presents not only a depressingly dark feeling and aspect to the property but also contributes to an unhealthy air stagnation problem which is not optimum for human health or for that matter the wood siding etc.

As part of this phase of home improvement the house was power washed to remove mold and mildew (same with walks and patios). The presence of green mold was once again an indication of poor air circulation. The next logical step was to paint the house. Discussions regarding color change took place with the client and painter. All vegetation was removed surrounding the house to allow the painting to be completed in a timely way.

While the house was being painted all the other landscape work went forward uninterrupted. This insured the least disruption of day to day living for our clients. With many of these landscape design and renovation projects we needed to start off with a proper site analysis of existing conditions including the health and value of the trees. In this case several small trees were removed in addition to pruning the larger more mature trees and removing almost all the overgrown shrubs. We were able to repurpose and transplant some of the larger more valuable and useful shrubs for better function and effect in the new landscape.


Couple of things to think about; check with your town regarding tree ordinances for pruning and removals, call 1-800-Dig to have the utilities marked. In this case a decommissioned oil tank was located under the front walk/masonry landing!

Changing the light conditions and air flow was the first giant step to creating a healthier, green landscape environment. If your goal and intention is to create the best possible environment, don’t take baby steps! Take giant steps and transform your landscape to a Go Green model! A large family event was planned for later in the season which provided a deadline. A strict timeline was established including planting, stonework, irrigation and lawn renovation. Each phase needed to be followed seamlessly. The design composition featured improving an existing pond/water feature and would also be informed by an eastern cultural influence. This involved the strategic placement of stone boulders, river rock for mulch etc.. We even managed to cover a stump where we removed a larger tree with a boulder grouping as part of the design.

There was a tight coordination of effort between our teams and created an opportunity for training by working with our best working foreman and project managers. The overall theme is to produce bright clean curvilinear lines and organic shapes to convey a naturally serene atmosphere. The natural setting greatly contributed to this feel. There is a stream running through the back end of the property. There is also small woodland borders on three sides. It also helped that there is interesting topography even though that caused challenges in terms of grade alterations and locating a reasonably level area for the entertainment/event. The visual transformation consisted of replacing much of the overgrown shrub planting with a sequence of flowering perennials, low growing, long blooming, summer flowering shrubs plus a progression of spring flowering bulbs supported by a structure of low growing native and ornamental grasses.

By expanding and increasing the bio-diversity of plant life we also increased the diversity of insect and animal life. This sets the stage for sustainable organic landscape management. All landscapes require maintenance! The human body is the best example of a maintenance/management system. We require watering, feeding, pruning, weeding etc.! If we design a landscape with consideration as to how it functions, what our expectations are and what will be required to maintain it, we will be more likely to be happy and fulfilled by our efforts. The return in our investment realized, whether in terms of enjoyment or increased property values, depends on the resources used to produce it. We should be mindful that our time on this earth is short. We should enjoy every part of it including the home landscape environment we spend time in as much as humanly possible. We should also leave our living landscape environment better than we received it for our children and future generations. If we all do it our communities will be a much better place to live!

Jay Archer, President





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