Last month one of our favorite landscape designers, Margie Grace of Grace Design Associates, was honored with two prestigious awards from the Association of Professional Landscape Designers for her work on a custom home we designed in Santa Barbara. In addition to winning the Association’s Gold Award for Residential Design, Margie was also named APLD’s “Designer of the Year.” Using some very creative, beautiful, and green solutions, Margie and her team managed to take a a gently sloping, flat, heavily excavated and re-compacted city lot and transform it into a completely natural looking site, making it appear as though the house had grown out of an “already existing” landscape.
During the site prep for the home, we unearthed an huge number of sandstone boulders and almost 200 tons of sandstone rubble. Because the hope was to keep the building process as green as possible and therefore not disturb the site more than we had to, both we and the client were opposed to having the rocks hauled away. So Margie’s landscape design had to somehow incorporate all that sandstone. She accomplished that task by terracing with the rock and placing boulders around the site to bring form, interest and flow to the once-flat space and creating distinct spaces each with a distinct feel and purpose, such as the stone amphitheater and fire pit that serve as a center of social gatherings. From mounding to footpaths to walls (walls to control runoff water, retain soil, create screening, etc.), a use was found for every last piece of stone on site.
The most exciting aspect of Margie’s work on the site is how green it is. Ninety-five percent of the landscape materials are sourced locally (within 15 miles) or site-found, which greatly reduced the fuel consumption and pollution associated with transportation of those materials. All the plants, with the exception of a handful of fruit trees, are low water use and/or drought tolerant; all plantings are watered by an automated drip irrigation system designed to maximize efficiency.
The landscape mounding and boulder piles enhance site drainage, reduce total planted area/water use, create wildlife habitat, collect runoff, and increase storm water percolation. A drainage “moat” surrounds the house. Bridged by stone in many places, the moat prevents runoff from puddling under the house and carries it to swales, preventing long-term house health (mold, rot) problems. Low water demand/high water use plants border the swaled areas. Plus, all hardscape surfaces are permeable, which also helps reduce runoff. Locally recycled material is used extensively as mulch throughout the gardens and shade trees are planted strategically to help moderate temperature and glare.
Margie and her team were able to accomplish all this and still create a space that is absolutely gorgeous and inviting. For that, their recently won awards are well deserved!