Green Building: Landscaping
If it would stop raining we could get the yard graded and begin the landscaping, so in the meantime I will walk you through our process designing and deciding on the landscaping. The lot is rather large (about 1/3 of an acre to landscape) and we had our wish list of features our dream yard would have, but needed someone to help us put it all together.
The first thing we did was interview four different landscape architects. We gave them a copy of the lot site plan with the house on it; a description of where it was (topography, etc.); and key features we wanted for the yard (orchard, garden beds, green house, lawn, play area, etc.). Then we let them make suggestions on how to incorporate the features we wanted and, of course, discussed their fee structure. We ended up choosing Chuck Edwards with Breckon Land Design, Inc. because we felt he had a good blend of form and function. Some of the designers were too invested in design and how it looked, but not as concerned about where the plants would grow best. Then some were overly concerned with soil and grading (don’t get me wrong, they are important, but there are more other things to talk about). Chuck seemed to have a good knowledge of the Hidden Springs area, what grows there, native and HOA approved plants, and a wonderful artistic side. Also, his fee structure is straight forward and you can choose how much or how little he is involved.
Chuck has a method and plan for approaching the design:
1) We met to discuss further what we want (functions) of the lot and went onsite to get a sense of grade and neighborhood.
2) Based on our discussion, he then comes up with four different concept designs and presents then to us.
3) After we took some time to digest the designs, we met again with Chuck to tell him which features we liked best out of all four designs. For example, we may have liked the front yard of the first design, but the garden area of the third, and the outdoor kitchen of the second.
4) He took our comments and created a final design. While he was doing that, Mark and I looked through plant books to decide on the kinds of plants we might want. Chuck also gave us a book to go through the local plant species.
5) Once the final concept design was done, we met with the HOA to get their approval and any comments, before making more changes to the plan.
6) Then Chuck took all final comments combined with the list of plants we like and created the final landscape plan. So here it is…
As you can see (or maybe not) it has everything we could dream of: The apple orchard in the front yard; a large fenced garden bed area in the back; a space for an outdoor kitchen and firepit, a space for play equipment; and a large lawn for the kids to play on. (The front yard is on the right facing east). One thing we did not do was give Chuck a budget on what the installed yard should cost. I think this was discouraging for Mark (once the final estimates came in), but I actually did not mind it because I wanted a plan for my “dream” yard. And that is what we got. Now, we will not be able to install all of this plan (now or maybe ever), but we can pick and choose how and what we hire landscapers to install, what we want to do ourselves, what we install this year, next year, and what will wait.
So the question is how can landscaping be “green’? I think it starts with design: creating something that is functional for the home owner as well as beautiful. Something that will require only as much maintenance as the homeowners are willing to do. But the plants soil are really key to water, fertilizer, and pest control use. In our case, Mark is really into permaculture (This is based on ecological and biological principles, often using patterns that occur in nature to maximise effect and minimise work. Permaculture aims to create stable, productive systems that provide for human needs, harmoniously integrating the land with its inhabitants.- Wikipedia) and I definitely like the concept, but find it very hard in a climate where the ground freezes in the winter, you have limited land, a HOA, and neighbors close by. Much of the permaculture concept incorporates the use of perennials that you and your family find useful. Many of the crops that would have been perennials in CA are annuals in Idaho, but we still wanted beneficial or useful plants. This doesn’t mean they all have to be edible. For example, I love fresh roses, so we incorporated roses. But I have also read that the fragrant red and pink varieties are the best for culinary use, so we have some Chateau Merlot Shrub Roses in the front yard. There are some pines in the beds for structure (so not everything dies in the winter) and the Idaho State Flower, Wild Mockorange, for show and tribute. There are also many other beneficials mixed in such as St. Johns Wart, White Bee Balm, and strawberries. There are a few other plants that provide color spots and color from March through November. We also chose to use meadow grass in the front and side yard as it is lower in maintenance and more drought tollerant. This mixture of colorful, native, and beneficial plants will provide almost year round color and is just what I wanted. The back yard has the same basic characteristics with even more species we will use, such as several different kinds of berries, apricot trees, echinacea, bee balm, lavendar, thyme, sage ,and rosemary. The rosemary was something I really wanted, but was told will not survive over winter. Chuck was able to find a variety he believes hardy enough to be a perennial. The row of bushes lining the back of the yard are designed to keep the deer and other animals out of our garden area. Sea Buckthorn is used around the garden fence because it is hardy, has large, dense thorns to deter animals and the berries are very high in Vitamin C. I am hoping to find a use for them, maybe like a medicial syrup (like elderberry). Golden Currant are used around the play area because they grow dense and are deer resistant without the thorns. I don’t know how long it will be before we can plant them, and even longer before their big enough to serve their purpose, but we have a wonderful plan!
Once we had a design, we started taking bids for installing it. We ended up asking for only two bids (because they both were so highly recommended) and decided to go with Power Enterprises, Inc. Power has been very helpful and has worked very hard to come up with a plan to install as much of the front yard as necessary to satisfy the HOA and the infrastructure in the back yard in order to avoid bringing large trucks back there in the future. I am very please with their stategy and professional staff. There will be enough of the front yard to satisfy the HOA, enough of the back yard to keep it from becoming a mud hole, and leave plenty for us to work on for the rest of our lives!
I’ll post some pictures as soon as I can. Fingers Crossed for no more rain!