Landscapes for Life

At the heart of sustainability in the garden are the 5 core elements above: soils, water, plants, ma

Low Maintenance Gardens

Thankfully, for both home owners and the planet, there is a lot of overlap between sustainable garde

Gardens for Wildlife

Our gardens are often places of retreat for us, where we can restore ourselves through play and rela


Landscapes for Life

June 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

At the heart of sustainability in the garden are the 5 core elements above: soils, water, plants, materials, and human health/well being. By addressing each of these categories we can create landscapes that work with nature to protect and restore natural ecosystems and the human benefits that they provide.

Landscapes for Life, a joint project between the U.S. Botanic Garden and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, is devoted to teaching people how to create and maintain sustainable, beautiful home gardens. They translate rules set out in Sustainable Sites Initiative, a 3rd party certification organization for sustainable landscapes, to a scale appropriate for the homeowner. Here are some of the basics of the sustainable garden for each of these categories:


Soils become degraded through construction and other human activities. They become compacted, over-fertilized, eroded, and stripped of organic matter. Working with soils in a sustainable way often means returning organic matter to reduce compaction, and restore poor or neglected soils. It means using chemical fertilizers only when necessary to solve a problem and protecting soils from further compaction, often with a layer of mulch.


Shortages of clean freshwater are becoming one of the most urgent challenges we face and the use of potable water on lawns and gardens are a significant cause of this. In addition, runoff from gardens often contain fertilizers and pollutants that damage aquatic ecosystems in our rivers, lakes, and streams. A sustainable landscape minimizes the use of potable water by selecting plants that can thrive without supplemental water once established and by using alternative sources of water such as harvested rainwater. In addition, we can use rain gardens, bio-swales, and other water retention techniques to store water on site and release it slowly into the groundwater and prevent storm surges that can overflow sewer systems.


The number one rule in selecting plants is to avoid the use of known or potentially invasive plants that can escape and damage native ecosystems. Instead use native and regionally adapted, non-invasive plants to reduce the use of potable water, fertilizers, and pesticides. Proper plant selection may also provide a range of benefits including food and shelter for wildlife, reducing home heating and cooling requirements through proper placement, and preserving rare and threatened native plant species.


The best materials for a sustainable garden are non-toxic, local, have low embodied energy (e.g. they don’t take a lot of energy to produce), are sustainably harvested, and are durable. The 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, and recycle are an excellent mantra for sustainable materials use.

Human health and well-being:

In protecting the planet we must not forget about our own well-being, as we too are a part of nature. Sustainable gardens limit the use of toxic chemicals, and seek to create a harmonious environment that promotes and sense of well-being and provides space for activity and/or an inviting social atmosphere. Research has shown that even just the view of natural landscapes from a window can speed recovery after an injury or illness. A well designed garden can reduce stress in the viewer and restore their ability to focus after becoming mentally fatigued.

For more information on sustainable home landscapes see the Landscapes for Life website:

Low Maintenance Gardens

April 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

Thankfully, for both home owners and the planet, there is a lot of overlap between sustainable gardens and ones that require little in way of maintenance. Avoiding the need for gas powered mowers, hedgers, and other maintenance tools is one the tenants of sustainable gardening and one that can save you a lot of time and hassle. While not all low-maintenance gardens are sustainable, here are a list of management techniques that create both sustainable and low-maintenance gardens:
1) Extensive use of low-maintenance shrubs that are selected to fit the site conditions: Many shrubs require very little maintenance throughout the year and, if they are selected wisely, will thrive for many years in a garden.
2) Add a healthy layer of mulch: Applying a layer of natural mulch to a garden to 3 inches depth can greatly reduce the need for weeding. As the mulch breaks down it naturally builds the soils organic matter, helping to maintain good plant nutrition and building a healthy soil biota.
3) Reduce or eliminate lawns or use low-mow lawn types: Mowing lawns is the probably the most labor intensive task in a garden. Reducing the amount of lawn or moving to a low-mow lawn type can vastly reduce the amount of maintenance needed. This also reduced the amount of carbon and volatile compounds released in to the atmosphere from gas powered mowers.
4) Reducing or eliminating fertilizer use: Fertilizers are highly overused in the garden and this promotes the growth of weeds as well as leading to fertilizer leaching into groundwater and eventually lakes and streams, where nutrient overabundance has become a huge problem. In a healthy soil, with plants selected appropriately for the site, fertilization should be entirely unnecessary.

Gardens for Wildlife

February 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

Our gardens are often places of retreat for us, where we can restore ourselves through play and relaxation. A garden can be place of retreat for other animals as well, where they can find food or take shelter, especially if we take care to provide these. Creating a garden that attracts and supports wildlife involves planning on many levels. A garden with diverse plantings, with areas of shelter where birds feel safe, that have shallow water for bathing, where plants are blooming throughout the season offering a steady supply of pollen and nectar; these are just some of the ways in which we can attract wildlife to our gardens. Terrasana Gardens will design a garden with plant selections that will draw in the birds, insects, or other wildlife that you’d most like to see in your garden.

Plant Selection

January 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

We make plant selections based on several factors including a comprehensive site assessment, diversity, design harmony, ecosystem services, pest resistance, availability, and client preferences. Good design comes from the consideration of many factors in order to make the best possible selections.

Native Plant Gardens

January 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

Using native plants in your garden is a wonderful way to support the natural diversity of our regional biome. Native plants offer a range of benefits including:
-Promoting healthy food webs by supplying plant foods that co-evolved with the local wildlife
-Supplying nourishment to host specific pollinators
-Avoiding the introduction of potentially invasive plants
-Native plants are well-adapted to the regional climate
-Planting rare native plants enhances the natural diversity can help protect struggling populations

Food Gardens

January 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

You can’t eat more local than your own backyard. The benefits of turning your backyard into a productive paradise are many – to your own health, the health of your community, and the health of the planet.
We design food and permaculture gardens that are both productive and beautiful. They are a feast for the body and the eyes, while being mindful of our impact on the natural world.

Rain Gardens

January 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

A rain garden is a planted area that is sunken several inches into the ground in order to retain stormwater flowing off paved areas, slopes, or building roofs. They are beneficial in several ways such as:

-Helping protect streams and lakes from pollutants carried by urban stormwater such as lawn fertilizers and pesticides, oil leaking from cars, and other pollutants that wash off roofs and paved areas
-Helping protect communities from flooding and drainage problems
-Reducing the load on sewage systems and helping to prevent sewage overflows
-Providing valuable habitat for birds, butterflies and many beneficial insects
-Increasing the amount of water that filters into the ground, which recharges local and regional aquifers