Planting pretty bushes and trees creating an aesthetically pleasing landscape design is the easy part, says HGTV Green Home 2012 landscape designer Ed Castro. What proves more challenging and ultimately rewarding for Ed and his team is developing a functional plan, one which addresses the site’s challenges, contributes to the home’s overall comfort level and requires little to no maintenance.
At HGTV Green Home 2012, the first step in this multipronged plan is to address the lot topography and prevent storm-water runoff. Ed explains that a mixture of crushed granite and locally sourced slate, paved over courtyards, allows rainwater to perk beneath the surface, where a series of French drains guide water to a bioswale located along the right side of the home. This rock-lined drainage course, which captures water from the subsurface system as well as the roof and downspouts, slows the course of water and directs it to a rain garden, located in the front yard. This boulder-lined depression, filled with a mix of sand, compost and top soil and surrounded by water-loving Japanese anise and acorus, serves as a retention pond, allowing water to slowly seep back into the earth.
Addressing comfort is the second step in the landscape plan. Sweetbay magnolias, once mature and paired with the property’s existing hardwoods, will create windbreaks, says Ed, and also shade the backyard’s decking system and hardscapes on hot, sunny days. To re-create the canopy lost when the lot was cleared, the team plans to introduce red maples, which will shade exterior spaces in the spring and summer and, once leaves drop in the fall, allow light to stream through the canopy and warm the home.
Softening the home’s contemporary architecture and creating visual interest is also key in the implementation of the plan, says landscape design consultant Chris Hopper. A Southern palette of drought-tolerant plantings includes shade-loving mahonia and abelia, planted underneath the front deck; wax myrtles, which anchor the home’s corners; and Chindo vibernums, which will shade hardscapes. Pink muhly grass, irises, black-eyed Susan and purple cone flowers were selected to provide pops of color and attract native birds. Beyond the back courtyards, edibles including rosemary shrubs transition the grade of the lot to the garage, where black myrtles, English laurels, serviceberry and yaupon hollies soften the foundation. A four-zone, drip-irrigation system, which utilizes the community’s reclaimed water source, will sustain plantings while conserving water.
For Ed and his team, subtlety is key. “The landscape design is not meant to wow in one area, where something is so tight and formal that it’s in contrast to the overall design and the property itself,” says Ed. “It’s meant to be more harmonious with the rooms, the spaces, the architecture and the property itself.”
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