Ecology + Design

New Trends in Landscape Design, Gardening and Property Management – Westchester County

In our ever changing, evolving and developing landscape environment, how we feel and respond to the sights, sounds and smell of our landscape has an effect on our emotional state of mind, our moods as well as our physical and potentially our spiritual health. If we consider the effect other environments have on us we may develop a conscience understanding of how we may manipulate, construct, improve or maintain our living and working spaces to better serve our desires and interests for our own benefit as well the benefit of our families and communities. A walk through a mowed path through a wide open wildflower meadow may suggest an expansive feeling of joyous, carefree freedom while a walk through a shady pine grove creates a sweetly fragrant quietude and serenity. The predictable yet seemingly improvised flight of birds and butterflies stimulates and activates our curiosity and sense of wonder. A stroll through a rose garden in full bloom and fragrance in the sunshine of the perfect weather day can make us smile with peaceful optimism. A trip to the seashore with the wind on our faces and salt in the air often restores our sense of calm and belief in the lasting continuity of beauty in nature. Many of our earliest , most powerful and positive experiences with our landscape environments and interactions with nature in our lives share this enduring remembrance of things past.

For me the christmas tree represents one of those seminal, happy experiences and memories.Wherever I lived the experience was repeated with the sure knowledge it would be a special time. Looking forward to picking the tree, setting it up, dressing and decorating, the smell… was wonderful. Looking forward to coming home to the sight and smell..the memories. Similarly, lighting the candles on the Menorah, imbued with an awareness of the importance and value of tradition and history is profound for our intellectual as well as the spiritual and emotional landscape within us. Things we see, smell, hear all trigger memories which affect our impressions and responses to the world around us.

I recently had the pleasure of being exposed to the Indian tradition of ‘The Festival of Lights’.. Wow! Regardless our our differences we share feelings and emotions generated by our surroundings, our landscape is how we see and interpret and experience our world. An example is the feeling of reverence we experience in a Church, a Temple, a Mosque. Almost without exception we are moved. Think of the positive reinforcement of the goodness and goodwill of humanity exemplified by attending the birth of your child, a wedding, etc. Witnessing courage and positive attitude in the face of adversity in others. Being inspired by song or sport or accomplishment in business. Think of all the amazing positive energy in the world depute our challenges and failures. Our day to day life experience could and should be so much richer by incorporating the flavor and themes our our rich cultural legacy in our landscape development. Let us celebrate the triumph of the human spirit in our landscapes, inside and out, at home work, in our businesses and communities.

Our day to day life experience could and should be so much richer by incorporating our more extraordinary exempts and elements of our beautiful worlds diverse collective culture, art and ritual. Certainly for me in my work I see too few models
of beautiful, uniquely creative expressions of art and culture harmoniously coexisting with healthy plantscapes and architectural hardscapes. We are only limited by our creativity and resources when it comes to developing and executing a design concept or theme.By drawing on our beautiful natural world together with a fabulously rich cultural heritage with influences around the globe we can produce an emotional banquet for our senses while improving the health and well being of our bodies as well as our environment. From a landscape perspective this is a trend we at Green Jay Landscape intend to nurture and embrace.

We find our principals and practices of ‘Landscapes for Better Living’ are perfectly suited and adapted to facilitate design, development and management of aesthetically beautiful landscapes while remaining true to our commitment to ecologically sustainable landscapes. Their are really no obstacles to producing ecologically vibrant, dynamic living landscapes as well as dramatically appealing scenes and visuals. Once again we are only challenged or limited by our own creativity and resources.For trends, I find wherever possible ( and it almost always is) repurposing of on-site material very valuable. In addition to conserving resources, retaining preexisting components helps retain some sense of stability and/or continuity, especially if the project is hugely disruptive to the site/environment.

Welcome back! And now, what is new and interesting in landscape design? I will say up front, without apology, a few of these identifiable trends are not new. In a real sense maybe nothing is new so much as reinvented. In the big picture one defining factor which informs and motivates our design and development is the ecological component. Although I still feel that the majority of clients are coming to this point of view indirectly, I will take it any way I can get it. Although still an exception to the rule, designing the landscape along with the architectural spaces including the structures, hardscape, topography and plantscape is exceptionally progressive. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to develop a landscape design plan before the final architectural plan was finalized and executed. The impetus for this was related to a regulatory wetland issue in Woodstock, New York. This phenomenal project Logstock of Woodstock remains an example of joining the human living environment to the land. This was an example of landscape design actually coming before the site development and building. Ahead of its time in providing an example of true sustainability in repurposing of existing, local, native materials in construction this project stands out as a work of art as well as living space perfectly integrated into the near pristine surrounding environment of the Catskill Mountains. Which brings us to the next cutting edge trend, natural swimming ponds, or NSP’s. Based on the European model these natural pools or ponds are designed, constructed and maintained without chlorine or salt. I have worked on design and/or construction of these spectacular projects in New Canaan CT, Cold Spring NY, and West Ashoken in the Catskills. For more info, see Biova Natural Swimming Pools. These water features may serve multiple uses from recreation to storm water management. They also provide an opportunity to utilize Floating Islands (see Headwaters) to create habitat for waterfowl, free of land predators (see Zoo Montana Otter Exhibit).

This is part of a larger trend to use wetland plants to biologically filter storm water and improve water quality. Many of our recent projects feature bog gardens and constructed wetlands. Larger scale projects often combine stream corridor restoration, ecological landscaping, aeration systems and hydraulic dredging. One such project in New Paltz, NY involved design of a wetland meadow with a scrub/shrub planting for soil stabilization in a flood plain. As to lake and pond restoration and management, wherever possible we prefer the less costly, less invasive and less disruptive hydrologic dredging method.

The overall trend in contemporary landscape design and architecture is to address the needs and requirements of the landscapes ecology while providing and accommodating for short and long term maintenance and management of resources. This process also insures maintaining and increasing value in every way. Part of the new technology which parallels our interest in integrating landscape architecture and storm water management is rainwater harvesting and rain gardens. Creating beautifully planted gardens which utilize and conserve our precious water resources for irrigation while satisfying regulatory requirements is beautifully attractive as well as a good investment.

Along with this trend, I like no mow lawns and meadows. This is especially true of septic ares and lawn areas which receive no traffic. We have finally realized the greatest resource demanding feature of our public and private land areas are our lawns. Very often they take up the most real estate in square footage. They tend to dominate the landscape. They demand the most resources while providing the lowest return in value. Although a well maintained lawn may be attractive to look at, especially to the male species as we find lawns much more interesting than our female counterparts do, they are relatively uninteresting monocultures (boring). I have to admit lawn care has been a good part or my livelihood/income in the past. As to the male/female dichotomy, we are not done! Woman as mothers tend to be much more interested in organic lawn care and landscaping. While not qualified to provide marriage consulting services, I very often feel it almost necessary to resolve my clients unequal, unbalanced views. While I feel strongly that a healthy green lawn contrasts very nicely with flowering trees, flower beds and more naturalistic landscaping, I believe there are may options available in design development. In this brand new world of ecological landscape design we are developing plans for sustainable maintenance and management which complement and insure the success of these projects.

Trends which continue to develop are unique water features (bubblers, fountains, pools, ponds, streams and waterfalls) as well as other Earth elements, especially fire! Not only in fire pits ( both wood and gas) but in timed displays, torches ,etc. Combining custom carpentry and masonry with these new exciting landscape features creates special, unique environments for work or play. Let’s not forget the teaching model. Lead by example!

Landscape lighting continues to be popular. Once again the opportunities to be creative and extend our enjoyment and appreciation of the outdoors are practically limitless in the applications available to each different circumstance and site. Moonlighting, grazing, uplighting and a new and exciting technique (widely underutilized), dimming, can be fabulous. An example is to equalize the light value both indoors and out which brings the natural or artificial light in, thereby expanding the field of view. This also allows for some creative mood lighting with a wide range not limited by timers or on/off switches. Which leads to the next interesting trend, art in the landscape?

Although nothing new, art in the form of sculpture or landscape art has been around a long time. The choice, positioning and lighting of these pieces adds a new dimension and dynamic to the landscape experience.From a Feng Shui perspective this may add an additional earth element (wood, water, stone, metal, wind). I believe, without being a Zen master or getting to deeply carried away with it, most of the basic principals of Feng Shui are common sense. Location and placement are critical! We recently completed a project with a kinetic sculpture moved by the wind. Another project featured a horse constructed from a vintage automobile( see both cases they were a rich addition to the landscape project. Working with edible gardens and vertical landscaping has been particularly rewarding. Don’t forget playscapes, childscapes and birdscapes!

There is so much more, porous paving, for instance, I could keep going but….

For me personally the trend I am most interested in working with and promoting is one project, being designed, built and maintained by the same firm. In our case, that would be Green Jay Landscape Design as primary contractor, in control and responsible for your landscapes performance.

The question to ask is… How much do you value and care for your landscape and property?

How important is it to have a beautiful, healthy landscape environment to enjoy now and always?

Love to see if we are a right fit for you.

Jay Archer, President


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