Monday, July 27, 2009

Interview with a Landscape Designer

Kate and I conducted our first professional interview last Saturday with our friend Julie Orr! We had a great conversation with Julie who was gracious and knowledgeable. Julie spent quite a bit of time with us talking about her design philosophy and her areas of expertise. One of the services she offers is the Express Garden Design where she will meet with her client at their site to conceptualize and design a garden with a focus on excellent design and sustainability using eco-friendly materials and native/water-wise plants. Julie took us through the process which starts with gathering information from the client then onsite with her laptop, Julie builds a plan that includes the client’s wishes and requirements such as walkways, designated outdoor living areas, plants.

The cool thing about her service is that she creates your new landscape on-site using CAD to draw a to-scale plan that the client can use when working with their landscaper or if they choose to -do the work themselves. Julie's services include everything from plant selection (Kate was in love with Julie's plant portfolio!) to suggested hardscape materials. I was particularly impressed by Julie's expertise in water conservation and her dedication to green design.

She offers other services as well, but the Express Garden is something I'm very interested in because it's very affordable (since she designs on-site her fees are considerable lower than traditional designers) and is a great way to get started on a gardening design project for the clueless (like me).

As a member of the Green Dream Team, Julie is on a board of professionals that includes architects, builders, and other professionals who are dedicated to green design and advocating green practices. One of the things Julie talked about with us is how to sheet mulch as a green way to encourage healthy soil without the use of chemicals or resorting to using a Rototiller. Here are some pictures from a recent project she designed showing the process.

I'm going to give it a try and am currently collecting cardboard and horse poo. I'll put up a post about my success with sheet mulching later in the month.

One other very interesting thing we talked about was grey water. Kate was very familiar with the practice of re-using grey water since it's common in Australia but, I'm embarrassed to admit, I had never heard of it before. Julie told us that Australia is light-years ahead of California when it comes to conservation of water and we should really look to them for ways to handle drought and conserve our resources. I'm fascinated by the idea of using our water to do double duty and want to learn more about installing a system at home - I guess because of the bureaucracy of having to apply for a permit to install a grey water system, they aren’t quite common place yet, but I can't see why not. In the meantime, we have a starting point by creating great landscape design that makes the best use of native and drought resistant plants. Thank you Julie for spending time with us!

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