Feature Article - October 2011
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A Born Natural

Nature Takes Its Place in Recreational Experience

By Kelly Anderson


Hardscape

Pathways, of course, called hardscape, are also part of any landscaping project and require careful consideration. These days recycled materials offer many affordable and eco-friendly options, along with the traditional considerations of concrete, asphalt, pavers, loose stone and more.

For the Annenburg Community Beach House, hardscape material was a challenge. With many of their users walking in bare feet, dark paving material in the heat of summer was a no-no that led them to ultimately choose light-colored asphalt for the parking areas. Depending on your needs, it is important to consider the effects of reflectivity or heat absorption of paving materials.

It is also important to consider their aesthetic and/or historical appropriateness. For the boardwalk and other areas historically made of wood at the Beach House, the project planners compromised with a more durable wood-plastic composite. It was a win-win.

Lehrer cautioned, however, that whatever you choose, the different kinds of hardscape materials should be kept to a manageable minimum to avoid having to maintain too many different kinds of surfaces.

Water, Water Everywhere

Of course, for just about every landscape project around the country, reducing water usage has become an issue that goes well beyond choosing drought-tolerant plants. From systems that work on timers to sophisticated sensoring and weather-detection features to compensate for rainfall, there are a variety of irrigation systems that make the actual process of watering a great deal easier and that also reduce waste.

Capturing water, too, has become an effective tool in reducing the cost of irrigation. Underground cisterns to capture rainwater or wastewater certainly help to offset the monthly water bill, but landscape architects are finding that even these practical features can be so much more than practical. They can be focal points, as well.

"This whole idea of being environmentally friendly and managing storm water on your site is definitely a trend," Burnett said. "So having places where water can be stored and featuring that—not just making it a square basin, but making it a feature—is more interesting."

No matter how easy a system you employ, however, there is no denying that landscaping and maintaining it can be hard work. Seminars and conferences, ongoing education and online communities certainly help. "Hard work is a four-letter word," Maynard said of his own experience with community gardens. "It takes a commitment to pay attention to it. But the good news is that there are more and more seminars directed toward parks and rec."