What I do
The landscapes I design are primarily residential, primarily in western Massachusetts but also sometimes further afield. I welcome small and moderate-sized projects as well as larger master-planning endeavors. My special expertise is in solving problems about how a landscape "works," i.e. how people use and move around in their landscape, especially the arrival area; drainage or erosion issues; problems with cars/driveways/parking; and the problem of older landscapes that are now ineffective, unappealing, unusable or generally unsatisfying in various ways.
My designs are ecologically-driven. This means that in addition to considering the requests and wishes of my clients, I also place a strong emphasis on doing well by, and taking care of, the natural world, both within and surrounding my projects. This approach also means that I give a strong priority to using regionally native species in my plans.
Because home surroundings are so important in our lives, and because the art of residential design is complex on so many levels – aesthetic, psychological, social, technical, ecological, legal and emotional – this work is endlessly fascinating and deeply rewarding. In every project, I work personally with each client and am directly responsible for all communication, mapping, design ideas and illustrations.
My goal as a designer is to create landscapes that are not just beautiful but also comfortably livable, ecologically rich and energy efficient. You can find more about my unique approach to design in the Philosophy page of this website.
My Design Services
- Develop detailed plans that integrate all elements of the property, including: walks, walls, patios, decks, driveway, yard, gardens, meadows, arbors, hot tub, pool, play spaces, etc.
- Make recommendations for managing natural areas and caring for established vegetation.
- Provide plans for construction, grading and new planting.
Design with Native Plants
- Plan perennial gardens, meadows, native grasslands, shrublands and wooded groves.
- Recommend proper methods of site preparation.
- Specify lists of seeds or plants to be used, and guide installation.
Site Planning for new homes and additions
- Collaborate with architects and builders to select the ideal house site and driveway alignment.
- Determine the best placement and design of house, driveway, paths, walls and all outdoor living spaces.
- Provide plans that protect valuable natural features.
- Identify how the landscape is contributing to or interfering with energy conservation efforts.
- Recommend actions to improve energy-efficiency and energy-saving, in both the design and maintenance of the landscape.
Pre-purchase landscape assessment
- Identify the advantages and problems of an existing property.
- Weigh potential repair and maintenance expenses.
- Advise about a property's capacity to meet your hopes and expectations.
A Typical Design Process
Planning your new landscape is a collaborative process of exploration and discovery. In this process, my job is to help you clarify your needs and wishes, provide new ideas, solve problems, and help reveal and enhance your property’s inherent character. Your role is to articulate your dreams, evaluate ideas, and make decisions. The project begins with a site visit to discuss your concerns and explore the basic nature of your land. Work begins after we formally agree on a specific scope of service and fee. My Portfolio page shows several designed landscapes and plans.
Before starting to design, I create a measured map of your property, a bird’s eye view of the site, which accurately depicts the important features in the landscape. Like a measured plan of a building, this map is the basis for the development of all new design ideas and solutions.
Site Analysis and Design Development
I then analyze all aspects of the project – your requests, the site’s conditions, constraining factors, opportunities for combining solutions, ways to save energy, etc. - and develop one or more preliminary plans that contain various design ideas and recommendations. For example, here are three design sketches for one project, including a new pool and patio, stone terrace, cabana, and related plantings.
Evaluating, Revising and Production of a Final Design Plan
Next, we meet to discuss the proposed ideas, and you begin the job of imagining, considering and evaluating the choices. Together we propose revisions and alterations to the initial ideas, if necessary. Finally, within a few days or weeks, you make final decisions about which options you prefer. The design phase ends when I produce a final plan, construction drawings, planting recommendations and cost estimates.
Construction and Follow-up
Following the completion of the design, I provide the additional (optional) service of coordinating the bidding process for implementation of the plan, then overseeing and guiding the construction process. To help ensure that the landscape is built according to plan, I interpret and explain the design to contractors, coordinate construction schedules, resolve unexpected dilemmas and remain available to help with any questions and concerns.
Hello, and thank you for visiting my landscape architecture website.
Here you will find information about how I can help you:
- Fix landscape puzzles and problems.
- Create a new landscape or renovate an old one.
- Consider landscape issues when planning to build a new house or other structure.
In these pages, you can also discover:
- My unique approach to landscape design.
- How the design process works, so you'll know what to expect if we work together.
- Lots of photos of my projects and gardens.
- Photos of New England native plants I love to use in my work.
- Comments from various clients, past students and readers (of my book, Energy-Wise Landscape Design).
I look forward to hearing from you~
The following slideshows illustrate projects I have designed, and an assortment of the native plants I frequently use in my work.
I hope these photos of my work will give you a good idea about my particular style and approach to creating comfortable home landscapes. Here you can see that I favor using Goshen Stone native to my region and/or other locally-harvested stone, and that my style tends to be relaxed and informal, but that even formal designs can be made inviting and livable. You can also see an assortment of native plants "in action" here in my designs.
Favorite Native Plants
Please enjoy here a small sample of the hundreds of beautiful plants native to western New England, where most of my projects are located. In every project, my goal is to have at least 80-90% of the plants be regionally-native, and to avoid using ornamental varieties whose flowers, foliage or fruit do not contribute to local bio-diversity.
Some Sample Plans
Below is a collection of plans and drawings I have created for my projects. Where noted, two or more plans show different aspects of the same project. All of these images together give you a good representation of my design style and the hand-drawing I do for all projects. Please take a look at the "Designed Landscapes" portfolio to see some of my built landscapes. They, too, started out as drawings like these.
“At the Conway School of Landscape Design, Sue was one of the best instructors I ever knew. She cared deeply about the students and had a knack for helping them learn through self-discovery. Sue was universally liked by students during the many years she taught there.”