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Landscape Architecture Q&A with DFC&A

Duane F. Christopher, a professional landscape architect working in Rock Hill, SC is our guest for today.

Duane F. Christopher, a professional landscape architect working in Rock Hill, SC is our guest for today.

Ever wish you could gain some professional insight in how to make a liveable and environmentally-friendly space and garden? Today we have a special Q&A with a local professional landscape architect who is a graduate of the prestigious Cornell University, an Ivy League research school in Ithaca, NY. Duane F. Christopher currently owns his own practice in South Carolina and is experienced in sustainability, gardens, residential design, and land planning.

Q: How many years have you been a landscape architect? What is your educational background?

A: 31 years: I have a bachelor of science with a specialization in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University and graduated in 1977.

Q: What factors make a home more sustainable?

A: Its location on site, its orientation to the natural elements of the existing site, the life cycle and sustainability of the building materials, the home’s power and water usage, recycling home water, considerations of the types of cleaning materials and their harm to the environment.

Our tip: Think hard about how a home is designed and pay attention to the products you are using. Clean organically, recycle water with your garden designs, think about lighting, design so the house to use as little energy and water as possible.

Q: What services do landscape architects offer for homeowners?

A: They create outdoor living environments, design vehicle approaches and visitor approachments, locate homes and other outbuildings, design swimming pools and gardens for viewing, edible gardens, lighting design for highlighting, pavilions, arbors, trellises, walks, and Japanese Gardens.

Q: What are some common mistakes to avoid when land planning and creating home spaces and gardens?

A: The most common mistake are over planting and not having enough space between plants. Landscape architects are supposed to plan for time. Most people don’t visualize what [the space] is going to look like in the future. In addition it takes less maintenance when you have fewer plants. Maintenance cost money, materials, and time. So, one saves resources with less. It costs less up front and also costs less long term.

Q: What are some ways the average homeowner can create a more sustainable space and lawn and save water and energy?

A: Homeowners should use less plants, including very little turf grass or a turf grass such as Centipede, and collect water from the roof and driveways in cisterns and use for irrigation or other non-drinking uses. Inside the home use dimmers on all incandescent lights, use LED or other low energy bulbs for the rest. Install radiant barriers in as many areas in the house as much as possible.

Q: What are a few simple ways homeowners can improve the look of their homes and gardens?

A: Have fewer plants and keep the foundation planting low and low growing. Create an entrance approach for the visitor and an interesting theme that reflects what the owner likes or has inside the house.

Q: When has DIY gone too far and is appropriate to hire a landscape architect?

A: A homeowner is going to spend thousands of dollars on [general] improvements over a period years; landscape architects can help you develop short term or long term blueprints and plans that are are good for anytime.

Q: Do you have any tips for how apartment dwellers and work environments can create a more organic feel and incorporate nature and sustainable design?

A: Apartment dwellers are much more limited in incorporating an organic feel; containerized gardening and potscaping is often the best one can do.

Q: Are there any current trends in landscape architecture that have piqued your interest?

A: I’ve been particularly interested in the use of Buffalo grass. There are new ways of showing what landscape architects do on the web such as on YouTube.

Q: What was your inspiration for the Green Dragon Garden?

A: I wanted a traditional garden that was in scale with our property. The Green Dragon represents many ideas, one was it is named after the Green Dragon Tavern in Boston where our freedom started and Paul Revere met with friends.

From Duane’s site: All of the visitor’s senses absorb the different aspects of the space. The design follows traditional Japanese Garden design principles. The rock formations, water features, and the Lily Pond are all tradition design components to the garden that are composed in traditional formations of mountains, Turtle Island, Crane Island, several waterfalls and the Green Dragon sculpture.The Lily Pond naturally filters and cleans the water without chemicals, replicating a natural wetland environment. It works constantly and is extremely effective. The Lily Pond is home to many creatures; there are several species of frogs and toads, Common Koi, Butterfly Koi, Sarasus Comets, Shibunkin, Rosy Minnows, Mosquito Fish and several water Lilies and other plant species. One summer we even had a turtle visit for a week.

Tips for creating your own Japanese garden: Keep the design principals of using rocks in the triangle form. Include a turtle island, crane island, and the 1, 3, 5, and 7 in designing the layouts of the boulders.

Q: What is a “green roof” and why should someone consider having one?

A: A green roof is simply using a layer of soil over a standard roof that has plants that are adapted for a particular area. The roof acts as a storm water management tool and keeps the space below cooler. A green roof is very organic and sustainable, it will also last much longer.

Q: How can someone create a rain garden?

A: Rain gardens need to be planned correctly so as not to be overgrown, there are many sources online on how to design and plant.

For more on Duane, check out his practice’s website at Duane Design.