Ecological Landscape Design
Our Design Process
We create beautiful garden ecosystems that meet your needs and flourish where they are planted. We carefully learn about your site; we study the soil health, access to sunlight, water flows and other as aspects such as wind, privacy and views. We combine this information with a client interview and questionnaire to make sure that we are meeting your needs while choosing plants that will do well in your yard.
When you contact us, you will be asked to complete a questionnaire, so that we can learn more about your property and your interest in gardening. Gardens can serve so many purposes: growing food (vegetables, fruit, and nuts), attract wildlife (birds, butterflies, provide privacy, screen ugly views, offer beauty and quiet sanctuary, or mitigate wet soil pollution and water issues. What do you want your garden to do for you?
Consultations are $80 and include an hour visit to your yard. During your consultation, we will discuss with you your goals for the site, learn more about the site, and make recommendations for plantings that will help to address your yard's needs. The consultation fee will be credited toward a garden design or installation.
We create 2D drawing and digital maps of local properties, showing a visual interpretation of what is possible. Landscape designs are valuable for both short and long term planning. With a design of your entire property, you can decide on stages for installation, with each separate garden drawn to scale showing placement of plants and other elements.
Natives and Useful Plants
Native plants have much value in our landscapes. These are plants that have grown in the current conditions of the area, they have grown in our clayey soil, survived varying weather conditions, and have relationships with the flora and fauna of the region. These plants are well suited to our yards and with some love and care can do well with little attention or fuss. Some native plants, though are sensitive to the harsh conditions of city life and an urban lot can be quite different from the surrounding suburban and farm areas of Western Pennsylvania.
When natives don't work for certain urban conditions or do not meet the desired needs of our clients, we will use other plants either naturalized to local site conditions or those that survive similar conditions in another location. We honor our native friends and welcome all non-harmful plants.
Useful plants are those that serve many purposes in our garden ecosystem. It is often helpful for a garden designer and gardener to focus on the various characteristics of plants. It is important to understand the conditions in which plants will thrive and further understand what services plants may be providing within their communities.
Useful Plants we focus on:
Ground Covers or Weed Reducers
We focus on designing with three types of ground covers: mat-formers, runners and clumpers.
Mat-Formers- plants that cover the ground in thick mats; think oregano, thyme and other mints.
Runners- plants that spread by a running stem; think wild or garden strawberries.
Clumpers- plants that hold their ground and expand slowly outward from a central location. Chives, daisies, and comfrey are good examples.
Using a mixture of ground covers that spread in various forms means that your ground is more thoroughly covered, reducing weeds and time spent weeding.
Remember these three plant families and include them in your plantings to be sure that you have a variety of beneficial attracting plants.
Mints- Many culinary herbs are in the plant family and are less aggressive as than peppermint or spearmint. Oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, and lavender are useful culinary herbs that also attract beneficial insects. Plus the smell nice and have beautiful flowers!
Asters- Plants in the aster family have a central flower head surrounded with rays of petals. These are traditional beauties such as purple cone flower, daisies, sun flower and asters.
Umbels- Are flowers that look like little umbrellas! Some examples of umbels are parley, dill and fennel flowers as well as yarrow.
It is important to attract beneficial insects to your yard as these insects and their offspring are natural pest control in your garden, eating up garden pests such as aphids and caterpillars. Having a mixture of flowering plants from these different families will attract different beneficial insects.
Soil improvers are plants that aid in creating healthy soil. Farmers have used nitrogen-fixing plants for years to increase the amount of nitrogen in the soil, a nutrient much needed for plant growth. Along with nitrogen-fixing plants, we focus on many plants that can improve the garden soil, so you don't have to!
Nitrogen Fixers- Lupines, Wild Blue Indigo and red clover are all gorgeous nitrogen fixing plants.
Soil Builders- These plants generate a lot of leaves and act as green mulch adding valuable organic matter to the soil. Yarrow, comfrey and horseradish are examples.