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.
“Sue’s efforts support mine as I develop building designs, and she is also very helpful to our clients. She presents a range of options for them to consider, communicates the assets and drawbacks of each option, and respects their goals and preferences. In our collaborations, the client, architect, contractor, and landscape architect work together to bring about a rich and thoughtful final product.”