Into the Weeds (1): A Reader’s Questions on Lawns and Ponds
Judging the relative impacts of certain landscape improvements.
The majority of this post and next week’s are for paid subscribers. They’re less philosophical and delve a bit deeper into some familiar subjects.
Subscriber Chad G., who is gallantly trying to do the right thing for nature at his new Eastern Long Island, NY, property, poses the following questions:
We have two acres of grass around the house we are building. What would you do to figure out how to change it? We have a landscape architect. Just rely on them? A small amount of grass is fine.
Also, we are considering building a swimming pond. Not sure if you’ve seen them but they look natural but it’s lined. What’s your view on that? We have another pond but it’s kind of gross. Murky water. Maybe there is a natural way to clean it up with plantings but it will never be an enticing swim.
Having exchanged emails with Chad, I know he worries about our collective impact upon the environment and what he can do to mitigate that impact as he builds his new house and manages his new property. For example, when his architect proposed a glass knee wall around the terrace, his mind jumped to thoughts of bird strikes. He decided to push back on that design element.
As I thought about how to answer these questions, it dawned on me that the “right” answer depends upon the scientific and philosophical filters we choose to apply.
Building a house on an unoccupied piece of land—even if it were an ambitious LEED-certified house—will always be less preferable than building nothing at all from the perspective of the wild things. But that only acknowledges the reality that being alive and choosing some level of human comfort has consequences. So let’s not criticize what Chad wants in the way of creature comforts. Rather, let’s put these various desires through the filters of environmentalism and backyard stewardship and see how well we can mitigate the impacts of:
Improving the lawn for wildlife while maintaining visual attractiveness to humans.
Constructing the most environmentally responsible pool.
Improving the existing pond’s natural systems. (I will address this one in Part 2.)
From Lawn to Biodiversity Corridor
Chad is fortunate to be working with a landscape architect, but it’s always important for clients to communicate their values to the architect. At Puddock Hill, for last year’s new patio and garden project we used a garden designer and challenged him to follow fairly strict environmental parameters. He didn’t mind doing so. Every good creative loves a challenge!
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