“I've worked with Sue on several projects at the Conway School, and have known her for over 25 years. She is thorough and competent; and has a terrific understanding the issues involved with landscape design and energy conservation. She has a terrific eye as well, and is great at explaining what is going on and what needs to be paid attention to.”

FrogGood Landscapes

Ecological Design Blog

Tips for creating landscapes that are: • Welcoming and livable • Naturally healthy • Low-maintenance • Energy-conserving • Good for us
• Good for the planet.

Why a Frog?

This blog is a place where I offer my thoughts and suggestions for creating landscapes that are good for us humans, good for other creatures and good for the planet.

Many have asked me, and others have perhaps been too polite to ask: why am I using a little green frog as the logo for this blog? Wouldn’t it be better to use a picture that inspires awe at my marvelous design ability or the glories of nature, or a scene that might invite readers to imagine how such a design could work in their own landscape?

These are all perfectly reasonable suggestions, but I prefer the frog, and here’s why.

Reasons from the shallow end of the pond

I am not especially a frog-lover. In fact I admit I’m a bit squeamish about even touching a frog. But the little guy in this photo is so appealing, perched there in perfect ease between his two worlds of land and water, that I just feel fond of him (and yes, this one is a male).

Every time I see this photo, I remember the little zing of pleasure I felt when I spotted him sitting there so calmly beside an artificial pond in the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Even with people strolling all around, he held still while I fumbled with my camera and snapped off a few shots before he did that classic leap-plop-dive that frogs do.

This particular frog is a Green Frog (Rana clamitans), a medium-sized species common in the eastern U.S., found living in ponds of all sizes and woodlands that contain even small or temporary (vernal) pools. As I am a fan of humble and everyday nature, this frog suits me perfectly.

A bit deeper still

From a design perspective, a logo should be not only relevant, but also unusual and memorable. Gorgeous landscape photos are sort of a dime a dozen, almost too easy to find. But at the same time choosing just one great picture to represent my blog would be pretty difficult. My frog photo circumvents these problems.

Also, a logo should be simple and recognizable. This frog is both.

The deepest reasons

Frogs are born in water, feed on land and water, reproduce in water, sunbathe on land and hide in water. This amphibious lifestyle embodies the amazing complexity of natural processes, many of which we don’t actually understand very well, or at all. In this way, frogs are a good reminder about the infinite ways of living in nature.

In addition, frogs have long been considered a sort of “canary in the coal mine” species for our larger environmental concerns. Their permeable skin makes them very vulnerable to even small changes in the quality of water, air and their overall habitat. When frogs disappear, their absence alerts us to a problem.

But my reasons for using a frog to represent this blog go even deeper still. In the last few decades, frogs all across the U.S. have been infected with a fungus that prevents them from being able to open and close their skin pores. This gradually kills them. The fungus (called Amphibian Chytrid Fungus) was brought to this country on the African Clawed Frog, a species that carries the fungus but is immune to it. And why were these aliens brought here? Ironically, because we wanted to use them for biology research and human pregnancy testing.

So, with perfectly benign intentions but ignorant of the consequences of our actions, we imported a disease that is now dramatically harming innocent frogs everywhere. This story is typical of much that we humans do. It also represents the kind of accidental harm that I try, in my design work, to avoid and if possible prevent.  


Frogs represent my own goals as an ecological landscape designer:

  • To create landscapes that respect the natural world.
  • To garden with regionally-native plants.
  • To protect, enhance and provide habitat that supports local wildlife (seen and unseen).
  • To take care of the whole planet: the parts of it that we know well and also, as best we can, the species and ecosystems that we don’t notice or seem to “need” in any tangible way.

And that is why my I’m using a frog photo as this blog’s logo. Check out other pages within this website, and most all of my blog posts, for lots of great landscape photos!