Raleigh Landscape Architects Balance Beauty & Sustainablilty

Posted on | March 21, 2014 | No Comments

Sustainable landscaping is a great way to lower costs and maintenance, and ensure that you are doing what’s best for your landscape and for the environment in general. But of course, we all want beautiful outdoor spaces to enjoy. To find out how landscape architects balance sustainability with aesthetics, we talked to Raleigh landscape architects Dan Sears and Ron Price of Sears Design Group. These seasoned experts shared with North Carolina Design how they truly appreciate the natural beauty of landscapes and are committed to solid sustainability practices.

Images Courtesy of Sears Design Group ©

“Sustainability enhances human health and well-being, and it’s good for both economic and environmental reasons,” Ron affirms. “There’s a lot of cost and environmental impact to maintaining an emerald green, weed-free lawn, for example. Cool weather grasses like fescue want to go dormant in the summer, so keeping them green requires a lot of maintenance, a lot of water, and a lot of chemicals.”

While sustainable design has become popular of late, it’s just par for the course for Dan and Ron. “A lot of people think sustainability is a new thing, but we’ve always been sensitive to doing things that aren’t competing with nature,” Dan explains. “The Good Lord made plants to thrive, not just survive. We focus on plants that are adaptable or indigenous — plants that will tolerate a little less care and less water. We avoid exotics, and use more perennials and fewer flowers.”

When it comes to what constitutes a beautiful landscape, there really is no one right answer. “Design is very personal, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Dan says. “We help the client discover what it is they want, then we capture that spirit with alternatives that are sustainable.” Ron adds, “We have to strike a balance between function and aesthetics, so we try to educate clients about their options, and what’s realistic in terms of site conditions in the greater context of what’s best for the environment.”

To create beautiful landscapes, Dan and Ron use principles common to any designer, such as color, scale and texture. “We design a sequence of blooms to add color all year,” Dan notes. “But plants are so much more than flowers. Leaves, grasses and ornamental trees create texture and color. The way we group plants together is also really important. The beauty of one plant can work harmoniously with plants around it. Or it can create a beautiful contrast.”

If clients do love showy blooms and exotics, Dan and Ron advise potting them rather than planting them. “Putting annuals in a pot provides more accents seasonally, because the pots are pretty even when the plants are not,” explains Ron. “Plus, pots are pretty low maintenance. A whole bed of annuals is challenging. But people say ‘Hey, I can take care of this pot.’”

In the end, the mission of Dan Sears and his team is a singular one. “We want to bring our clients enjoyment and betterment of their lives, without compromising future generations,” says Ron. “Yes,” adds Dan. “And I’m proud to say that we do so successfully.”

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