A Reminder For Responsible Landscaping

Posted on August 19, 2019 by Katie Shapiro

As the Roaring Fork Valley’s vivid green surroundings turn to glowing gold in the coming month, residential, commercial and public space landscapes will face a transition, too, which require special attention to sustaining the season ahead.

While summer is notorious for seeing the biggest spike in construction activity, local development continues to increase year-round and a landscape ordinance recently implemented by Pitkin County and the City of Aspen has presented a new set of guidelines for home builders to keep in mind. An 18-month pilot phase began on June 22, 2017, and ended on December 31, 2018, with the Landscape Ordinance made official on January 1, 2019.

“The idea behind it is to restrict water use and through the program as a result, we’ve already seen how that is influencing landscape design. We are limited to a more drought-tolerant palate, which is a positive thing, but it’s restrictive,” says Christine Shine of Connect One Design, a conservation-minded landscape architecture firm with offices in Aspen and Basalt.

Connect One Design recently completed the Snowmass Roundabout, which was planned to include drought-tolerant, fire-wise plant varieties and materials. Photo credit: Dallas & Harris Photography

She adds, “More attention is being paid to planting and after last year’s [Lake Christine Fire], we’re designing specifically for wildfire risk. We are using FireWise materials and building roads more creatively for barriers. Codes have always been in place for this, but what happened here was a reality check and put it in the forefront for us.”

 Shine credits the Renewable Energy Mitigation Program (REMP)—a groundbreaking carbon fee program adopted in 2000 to mitigate the environmental impacts and greenhouse gases produced by large homes—as further support for local landscape architects to execute projects as efficiently and environmentally-friendly as possible.

Under REMP, which works with and supports the area nonprofit CORE, homeowners and commercial property owners who choose to install energy using systems such as snowmelt, outdoor pools, spas, or large square footage have the option of installing a renewable energy system on-site, or choosing a mitigation payment option instead. Installing solar photovoltaics (PV), solar water heating, or geothermal heat pump systems are examples of renewable energy projects that can earn on-site renewable credits toward REMP fees.

 The principals of Connect One Design have also developed a software program, The Plantium, to aid with plant selection, which largely helps with choosing species to help avoid properties like fruit-bearing (to prevent bear attraction) or identify FireWise and water-conscious varieties required per the new landscape ordinance.

 As far as how landscapes overall will fare this year, Shine explains, “Heavy snow coverage always relieves the possibility of plant material drying out due to a lack of coverage. In this year’s case, blooming was delayed due to late snow and coverage, which wasn’t necessarily the most positive outcome. The summer rains were more beneficial than the heavy snow season.”

 Here are her top three tips for late-summer season projects:

  • For planting itself, there is limited availability with varieties. Do your research before planting anything.
  • Let plants that you want to proliferate and spread go to seed.
  • Start composting in the fall for good soil health and cutback or leave plants for winter interest.

For more information on Connect One Design, visit connect1design.com.

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