The Aspen ecosystem that provides light screening and light shade and needs moist soils, occupies the gullies that serve as drainage swales and hosts plantings of native Columbine, Geranium, Snowberry and Huechera. Conversely, Rabbitbrush, Artemisia, Bluebunch Wheatgrass and Penstemon inhabit the hot, dry slopes and ridges in the Sage Steppe ecosystem. Douglas Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Ninebark, and Mahonia provide visual density and shade on Northeast facing slopes. Nearly one hundred species of native and drought tolerant plants were incorporated into the design and planted in appropriate communities. Irrigation methods and zones were matched with each planting area type. Soil moisture sensors were also installed to further study and finely tune the irrigation system. Automatic watering was programmed to support specific plant communities and modified according to actual soil moisture readings during each growing season.
The Telemark Residence is designed to use more than 50% less water than a conventional landscape of a similar size in this climate. Compared to the previous landscape, water usage has dropped from over 3 million gallons per year to under 800,000 gallons per year in its third year of establishment. The water savings will continue to increase as the plants mature and eventually most of the landscape will need little supplemental water.
The master plan for the property staged the conversion of the landscape into three phases. Phase one commenced with the replacement of an unattractive stand of Lodgepole pine dominating the center of the circular entry driveway with a small pond. Excavated to more than 8 feet in depth and surrounded by 5-10 ton boulders the pond is naturally filtered through a constructed wetland planted with native sedges and rushes. Colorful iris, columbine and spirea complete this composition. On the East side of the home the existing lawn was removed and replaced with a boulder garden designed to mimic nearby glacial moraine deposits. Shallow swales excavated throughout the property reestablish remnant flood channels providing a unifying theme to the landscape design. Masses of colorful Spirea, Idaho Fescue, Columbine, Geranium, Penstemons and other native and non-native plants drift between the rounded granite boulders creating colorful displays of purple, white, red and yellow flowers throughout the short summer months.
The natural landscape at the Big Wells Residence in Sun Valley Idaho, centered on a biologically filtered natural pond and bog system, and surrounded by a luxurious planting of native grasses and riparian shrubs creates a peaceful refuge for the owners, their children and grandchildren in a natural habitat full of the sound of birds and running water.
Carefully selected rushes, sedges and other submerged plants planted into a constructed gravel bog and along the margins of the pond capture harmful nutrients insuring water quality remains pristine. Cold water mechanically circulated from the bottom and edges of the pond discharge into the bog and waterfall features aerating the water, mitigating water temperature and stratification decreasing the chance of unsightly algae blooms.
After almost 15 years the Zuni Drive landscape is virtually maintenance free.The house is sited on an excavated platform midway up a steep west facing slope. Over a hundred tons of 1 to 4 ton Andesite boulders were set by the contractor to retain the resulting steep slopes above and below the house and create level areas for walkways, a small patio and lawn. Stone mulches collected from local talus fields cover the pathways and are used as mulch between boulders on steeper slopes to minimize erosion and provide habitat for native Eriogonum, Penstemon, Flax, Rabbitbrush, Mountain Mahogany, Fernbush and creeping Juniper. Drought tolerant non-native cultivars such as Creeping thyme, Rosy Pussytoes, Sedum and Russian Sage creep in between patio stones and provide late season color. On the shady north side of the house creeping Oregon grape and native Colorado Columbine thrive. Bluebunch wheatgrass and Idaho fescue complete the composition.
By dividing the small lot into smaller programming areas it created the illusion of much more space. A series of boardwalks, decks, fences, paths and patios create compelling movement through the site and added form, mystery and interest to the space. Textural interest is offered by the juxtaposition of wood, decomposed granite, ornamental gravel, natural stone, and decorative steel mesh. Organization and definition was established through the strong use of regular shapes and the use of manufactured elements such as large concrete planter boxes. A simple, soothing palette of ornamental grasses and ground cover of Wooly Thyme and Creeping Oregon Grape planted in large masses add serenity. Existing mature aspens, a large prostrate juniper and Colorado spruce trees were carefully preserved as an overstory giving the design a fully developed and protected feeling when complete. First year water monitoring indicated a water reduction of 20-30%.