Color aside, there’s nothing green about a lush lawn. From an environmental perspective, closely cropped, weed-free turf grass doesn’t occur in nature — it requires considerable water, fertilizer, pesticides and mower gasoline to make it flourish.
For an extreme green project like HGTV Dream Home 2013, a standard lawn-covered yard simply wouldn’t do. Instead, Matt Wilson, landscape architect at Three Oaks Contractors, chose a variety of locally occurring plant species that thrive without high doses of chemicals, effort or even irrigation once the roots have become established in the soil.
Here are four key components of Matt’s green landscaping strategy:
In addition to the site’s existing live oak trees, Matt added palmetto trees, many of which were transplanted from other spots on the property. And he planted evergreen shrubs, such as yaupon holly, wax myrtle, dwarf palmetto and Walter’s viburnum, to give texture to the landscape and help camouflage HGTV Dream Home’s raised foundation. Low perennial groundcovers like sweet grass, salvia and spartina grass replace a lawn.
Matt installed a drip irrigation system to give plants a healthy start. This network of underground water pipes hydrates the plants by slow-dripping water right at the soil line. There’s almost no waste, the water soaks down deep to encourage vertical root formation and the foliage stays dry, which reduces the risk of plant disease. Matt anticipates that irrigation will be needed for about a year, and then the plants can be weaned off the system and thrive in the coastal South Carolina environment.
The driveway and walks are paved with pervious concrete, a porous material that allows rainwater to flow through the surface to the earth below. The permeable pavement eliminates the potential for flooding and erosion that standard concrete, asphalt and other masonry surfaces can create. “Basically, it’s concrete without the sand,” says Matt. “It’s just stones with enough cement to hold them together, so it looks like a Rice Krispies treat, and water can move right through the voids between the rocks.”
To handle the hundreds of gallons of water the home’s roof will discharge during a heavy rain, Matt built an environmentally friendly flood control system. A perforated pipe is buried in a bed of gravel under each roof eave to collect the runoff and discharge it into surface depressions in the landscape. These low-lying spots allow water to puddle and then percolate down into the sandy soil. Water-loving plants such as gregia, scouring and horsetail rushes and Southern wood fern will help absorb the water — and limit the house’s impact on the environment.
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